“I want to be a living work of art!” exclaimed Luisa Casati (1881 – 1957), the woman who astounded Europe with her extravagant parties, played muse to many of the artists of the age, and burnt through a vast fortune, before ending her days in poverty in a London attic. She was more than twenty-five million US dollars in debt at the time of her death – surely a woman who knew how to party.
I love the Marchesa Casati. I recently finished her biography, Infinite Variety, by Scot Ryersson and Michael Yaccarino, which I recommend very highly as a portrait of a remarkable woman, the decline of the golden age in Europe, and a fascinating piece of art history.
The Marchesa was infamous for her night-time strolls, naked under her elaborate furs, leading a couple of pet cheetahs on diamond-studded leashes. She was the lover of Gabriele D’Annunzio, and inspired his work throughout his life. Countless artists were fascinated by her death-like pallor, her vast, kohl-rimmed, green eyes, her vivid red hair. She transformed her numerous homes into elaborate fantasies. She spent thousands on her elaborate costumes, and her even more elaborate parties. Her dinner tables were served by footmen painted in gold leaf. It was said that she had obtained wax images of her past lovers which contained their ashes.
Needless to say, I find her enthralling.There is ridiculously little literature available about Luisa (in addition to the biography mentioned above, an anthology of the art she inspired, Portrait of a Muse, is about to be published). But to learn more about this fascinating woman, you can go to her official website, marchesacasati.com, or read this article on Dandyism.net.