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Friday, 14 November 2014
La Divina Marchesa
Marchesa Luisa Casati was an eccentric patroness of the arts and socialite, born into an aristocratic Italian family in 1881. As a teenager, she inherited an immense fortune that she later used to fund her transformation into a living work of art. In her ruined Venetian palace (the same that houses the Peggy Guggenheim Collection) she held legendary soirées, surrounding herself with artists and intellectuals, dabbling in the occult, wearing live snakes as jewellery and parading around the city with cheetahs on jewelled leashes. Her signature look consisted of eyes blackened with kohl, deathly pale face, and crimson-painted lips.
The Marchesa commissioned countless portraits of herself and became one of the most portrayed women in history. Her quest to immortalise herself in art was one of the many things the Marchesa had in common with the Countess of Castiglione, the notorious 19th century femme fatale she had modelled herself on. The Marchesa had lived so lavishly that despite her wealth, she was $25 million in debt at the time of her death.