Muse Marchesa Luisa Casati

"Everywhere she went, she set trends, inspired genius and astounded even the most jaded members of the international aristocracy. Without question, the Marchesa Casati was the most scandalous woman of her day..."


Luisa, Marquesa Casati, was an eccentric Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th century Europe. She was the perfect concept of a dandy: "I want to be a living work of art".

She captivated artists such as Robert de Montesquiou, Erté, Jean Cocteau, and Cecil Beaton. Had an affair with Gabriele d'Annunzio, and famous fr her amazing eccentric style and excess.

She fled to London from a £25 million debt and ended her days in relative poverty- she was caught rummaging bins to find feathers to decorate her hair. MY kinda lady. She died in 1957 and was buried wearing leopard skins and false eyelashes. 

In 1922, Man Ray photographed Luisa Casati, the muse, Italian heiress, and arts patron, who was born today in 1881. In the image, her face is juxtaposed with an obelisk; she stares out a window with kohl-lined eyes, darkened lips, and unkempt hair, in contrast with the refined, ancient monument. Yet, in her extravagant dishevelment, she holds her own. With her flair for high drama and lifelong goal to be considered a living work of art, she performed monumental beauty.

In the early 20th century, Casati became famous all over Europe for her decadent style. The child of a Milanese count and countess, Casati became one of the richest women in Italy after both her parents died when she was still a teenager. Poiret dressed her; Augustus John painted her; the Italian futurists idolized her. In John Richardson’s biography of Picasso, he produces an anecdote about one of Casati’s infamous dinner parties, at which she drugged a snake and painted it gold, and wore it as a necklace. Sometimes she appeared with a makeshift necklace out of bites from her lover. In Venice, she would often take her ocelots and borzois on walks outside her palazzo wearing nothing but a fur coat, pearls, and a face full of makeup.

In portraits, she is most often shown with a tangle of hair dyed bright orange, intense eyes, and chiseled cheekbones. There is nothing muted about her approach to appearance. Casati stretched beauty’s limits even by today’s standards. She was six feet tall and accentuated her height with extravagant headpieces. Accounts say she took doses of belladonna, a poisonous plant, to dilate her pupils and make them darker. She didn’t stop there: She topped her unnaturally obscure eyes with rows and rows of fake eyelashes—sometimes fashioning them out of strips of fabric—and powdered her skin porcelain. She painted her face in stark black and white, like a photograph of the period.

Nearly a hundred years after her heyday, she lives on in art, true to her mission, acting as a muse for designers like Dries Van Noten, Karl Lagerfeld, and John Galliano, and serving as the namesake for Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig’s fashion house. (via Vogue)