An Italian fashion legend: The Marchesa Luisa Casati
Marchesa Luisa Casati probably the most artistically represented woman in history after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra.
Born Luisa Adela Rosa Maria Amman in Milan in 1881 to a wealthy noble Italian family, her parents death at age 15 left Luisa and her older sister the wealthiest women in Italy. She wed Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino, Marchese di Roma in 1900. After the birth of their only daughter, Luisa left her husband and daughter in 1914 in order to reinvent herself as a patroness of the arts.
Rich decadently eccentric fashionable Italian heiress, muse for the Italian Futurists and Symbolists, Fauves, Futurists and Surrealist. She was the first dandy of the early 20th century.
An amazing charismatic woman with flaming red hair and black-rimmed green eyes, tall, skinny, androgynous.
Her parties and appearances at others became legendary. For her dressing up was the chief embodiment of her creative vision, a type of living theatre, where there was no discernible difference between costumes and clothes.
In her own way, she anticipated Lady Gaga. She transformed her body and her face in a never-ending process, creating meaning somewhere between playfulness and artistic research.
Her life goal was to “be a living work of art”.
In fact the Marchesa was so obsessed with her image that she made it one of her life’s ambitions to have herself painted, sculpted and photographed by hundreds of artists that she commissioned (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Léon Bakst, Fortunato Depero, Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Alberto Martini, Augustus Edwin, Kees Van Dongen, Ignacio Zuloaga, Jacob Epstein, Man Ray).
As she would surely have desired, the Marchesa’s substantial artistic and cultural legacy continues to be recognized to this very day (Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford). She was the woman who inspired the famed ‘Panther’ with green eyes design for Cartier.
It all ended with her financial ruin and self-imposed exile in London where she died in June 1957.
“But her alchemy was much more complex, producing many other marvels. By what fire did she transmute the substance of her life into the beauties of such moving power? She demonstrated how true it is that all enchantment is a madness induced with art. But what was the real essence of this creature? Was she aware of her continuous metamorphosis, or was she impenetrable to herself, excluded from her own mystery?” – Gabriele D’Annunzio
“The Marchesa lived partly as a slave to her dream world. She had two venues: her palaces and her aristocratic circles. They served as stages where everyone was usually an actor, but when she made her entrance, they automatically became spectators or background extras.” – Alberto Martini
“The door to the room where we sat chatting suddenly opened. A dead woman entered. Her superb body was modelling a dress of white satin that was wrapped around her like a shroud and dragged behind her. A bouquet of orchids hid her breast. Her hair was red and her complexion livid like alabaster. Her face was devoured by two enormous eyes, whose black pupils almost overwhelmed her mouth painted a red so vivid that it seemed like a strip of coagulated blood. In her arms, she carried a baby leopard. It was the Marchesa Casati.” – Gabriel-Louis Pringué
“She was the most flamboyant and dramatic character to flit through the early 20th century European beau monde. They simply don’t make her kind anymore: richer than God, gloriously semi-sane, with outrageous tastes in friends, art, decor, clothes, houses, pets and lovers. Guests of Casati’s boudoir were a veritable who’s who of the aristos, aesthetes, artists, bon vivants, poets, dancers and dandies that made the early 20th century’s art scene what it was; totally, utterly and delightfully mad.” – Michael Mattis
“Women of the world today dress alike. They are like so many loaves of bread. To be beautiful one must be unhurried. Personality is needed. There is too much sameness. The world seems only to have a desire for more of this sameness. To be different is to be alone.” – Luisa Casati
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” – Inscription on her tombstone, from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.futurismo, Lady Gaga, Luisa Casati