Jun 8, 2002

the asthetics of excess
I don't really like Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. Aside from the fact that, at the bar, they once served us Campari with dried fruit, there's something about the place that makes me think of dust. On the second floor they have a '900 collection. It includes a portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Giovanni Boldini. The Marchesa is portrayed sitting on a bed, her body turned towards the wall. She's covered with peacock feathers.
Luisa was born in Milano to a very weathly bourgeois family. She married the Marchese Casati, aristocratic but poor. Soon bored by their lifestyle (her husband liked to spend time in the country riding horses and shooting animals), Luisa began giving parties to animate her life. Because she had no inner life, she went to extremes with her external one.
Luisa was very tall and thin to the bone. She died her hair red and redefined her eyes with kohl. And to give herself a Misty Look, she dilated her pupils with belladonna. During this time, there was a fascination with death and the occult. It was better to look dead than alive. Luisa shared her interest in these ghostly aesthetics with Garbiele D'Anunnzio. There mutual attraction for the morbose led them to become lovers.

She sent her only child, Christina, to live in a boarding school. Luisa perferred, instead, to live with her animals--greyhounds, cheetahs, parrots, and boas.

Luisa spent most of her time planning elaborate masquerade parties. Disguises thrilled her. She subsequently developed a passion for art. This meant commissioning various artists to portray her in her wide variety of personae. Artists such as Boldini, Roberto Montenegro, Augustus John, Alberto Martini, Joseph Paget Fredericks, Kees Van Dongen, Romaine Brooks, Man Ray and Cecil Beaton. She even had a life size wax doll made of herself.

For awhile Luisa lived at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice, a building that was latter bought by Peggy Guggenheim and today is a museum.
Eventually Lusia consumed her fortune and was left penniless. For awhile she made collages using clipping from newspapers and magazines. She died at the age of 76 and was buried, along with her dog, at Brompton Cemetery in London.

Luisa represented exaggeration as norm....when too much is not enough

Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957) attained a reputation as the brightest star in European society. Possibly the most artistically represented woman in history after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra, the portraits, sculptures and photographs of her would fill a gallery.-- the Marchesa Luisa Casati, makes an entrance that will be salon gossip for the next year.-- Augustus John The Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1919--
"I want to be a living work of art."-- Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati-- Maria Luisa Casati Stampa 'eccentrica trasgressione di Coré-- It was precisely in New York in 1995 at Christie's that Boldini reached the record price of 2.468 million Lire for the "Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati with her greyhound", executed in 1908 and part of the Baron Maurice de Rothschild's collection-- Long gone are the days of the Marchesa Luisa Casati who walked around her house in costumes designed by Leon Bakst.-- a portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Giovanni Boldini One of Man Ray's earliest portrait commissions in Paris came from the Marquise Luisa Casati, an eccentric Italian aristocrat who was an important patron of vanguard artists.-- For Galliano’s latest collection, the old Opera National was transformed into the turn-of-the-century world of Maria Luisa Casati, an Italian marquesa famed for her extravagant parties and personal -- Core' was a nickname which D'Annunzio gave to the marchioness Luisa Casati --During her remarkable lifetime, as the Marchesa Casati progressively destroyed the conventions that bind, her visual aesthetic teetered ever increasingly towards the daring and downright haute bizarre.

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