Sunday, April 11, 2010

Marchesa Luisa Casati - Hippe De Luxe

The infamous Luisa Casati is known for her life spent inspiring artists as a muse, patronizing the arts, and making herself a living piece of art through her lavish parties, luxurious lifestyle, and unusual sense of style. Born Luisa Amman 1881 to Italian cotton producers, she was orphaned at a young age and along with her sister became the heirs to a large fortune. She married Marchese Camillo Casati in 1900 and became a Marchesa. Camillo provided the noble title, but Luisa provided the money. Because Luisa had the money she was in control of her trajectory and did what she pleased with her fortune while her husband focused on his own interests. The couple had one child who they sent away to school (Cristina Casati is an interesting character herself), and pretty much ran separate lives.

La Casati's eccentricities began when she started an affair with Gabriele D'Annunzio who nourished her interests in the exotic and macabre. Although she had a husband and numerous lovers, she was very independent and spent a lot of time traveling. She had houses in many locations (such as Capri, Rome, and Paris), but one of her favorite places and homes early on was in Venice. At Palazzo dei Leoni on the grand canal in Venice (which she rented), she had a garden and a menagerie of wildlife. There were albino blackbirds who could be dyed for special events, a white peacock who perched in the window off the grand canal, a set of greyhounds (one black and one white), and cheetahs. At night on a walk or in her all white gondola with her African gondolier, she would create a striking scene with her long lanky body barely covered by sheer material with her animals on diamond leashes. Everywhere she went, she traveled with animals, animal furs, and luxurious exotic trinkets to transform any location to her aesthetic pleasure.

Her clothing was commission by the likes of couturier Paul Poiret, to Leon Bakst the costume designer for Le Ballet Russe. Luisa had a new one of a kind costume for every event meant to be worn only once. She also had day wear designed for her and her specific lifestyle of lounging, walking wild animals, and socializing. Even though eventually Marchesa Casati breezed through her money and was dirt poor, she still retained elegance and a quality of magic in her life. This too says something about the nature of style and imagination or perhaps maybe just eccentricity. I like to think that it takes a lot more than money to create a magical life.

There is obviously a lot more to say about this intriguing woman, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around her unwavering dedication to aesthetics. I just got finished reading and pouring over the book "The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse" by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino and it is exceptional and I would highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in an unusual life story. Anyhow since I am most interested La Casati's sense of style in terms of being an early hippie de luxe, bon vivant, etc., over the next few days I will be putting up costume design sketches, photographs and paintings capturing her unique style.

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