Archive for the ‘books’ Category

A Fascinating Individual: La Marchesa Casati

January 25, 2008

marchesa-luisa-casati.jpgI came across Marchesa Casati late last year while ‘googling’ Marchesa, the clothing label. I quickly forgot my original search and became instantly fascinated by this Italian woman. She proclaimed, ‘I want to be a living work of art’ and she certainly lived up to her legend. She was famed for her dramatic appearance, described as ‘macabre beauty’. Her skin was chalky with death-white powder, and her height and thinness lent her an androgynous look as she draped herself in lace Venetian gowns with tightly cinched waists. Another Marchesa signature was an extraordinary necklace of pearls that dropped almost to the floor. But her most striking feature were her startling green eyes, which she diluted with eyedrops and ringed with kohl from eyebrows to cheekbones. 

As Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote: “She was akin to the great creatures of Michelangelo…Her gowns lived with her body as ashes live with the embers…She demonstrated how true it is that all enchantment is a madness induced with art”. 

But the drama did not end at her appearance, it translated into her conduct and everyday life – which was nothing less than extraordinary. “More than one report details Luisa’s unusual nocturnal promenades: her spectral form, totally nude within the folds of a voluminous fur cloak, leading her pet cheetahs by the jeweled leashes about the Piazza San Marco”. She often used nudity as an attention-grabbing tool, and once showed up to the ballet in a feather gown that malted throughout the night leaving her nearly naked by the end.

La Marchesa squandered unimaginable amounts of currency to achieve her visions and throw some of the most magnificent parties in history with no regard to compromise. You must read ‘Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of Marchesa Casati’ in order to truly understand how extravagant these parties were. It is a truly fascinating insight into her life and extravagant obsessions.

marchesa casati with cheetahinfinate variety marchesa casati