Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Luisa Casati: The Living Work of Art

20th century

Luisa Casati: The Living Work of Art

Woman who outraged and inspired people of her times, who was a symbol of the Belle Epoque and a muse to her-contemporary artists. She owned palaces all over Italy but died indebted and alone in London. Meet the Divine Marchesa, Luisa Casati, who wanted to make herself a living work of art and her life a spectacle.

A skinny and weird girl

Man Ray, “Divine Marchesa” Luisa Casati, 1922, luisa casati

Man Ray, “Divine Marchesa” Luisa Casati, 1922, private collection

Luisa Amman was born into a well-off family: her Austrian father made his fortune in cotton and the king Umberto I gave him the prince title. She was a shy girl, ashamed a bit of her long and skinny limbs. She would spend her days in churches and art galleries, copying great Reneaissance  paintings. When she was 13 her dear mother died, her father followed her two years later. Luisa and her sister were taken to their uncle’s. When Luisa was 17 and about to enter the high society, she made an outrageous decision: she cut her hair short, giving a beginning to a totally new trend.

A seductive femme fatale

Romaine Brooks, Portrait of Luisa Casati, 1920, luisa casati

Romaine Brooks, Portrait of Luisa Casati, 1920, private collection

Her marriage in 1900 to marquis Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino was a marriage of interests and love. She accompanied her husband to the fox chases and participated in his businesses. Until she met Gabrielle D’Annunzio, a remarkable poet, whose charm and lifestyle seduced her. This first love affair gave the beginning to her liberation from social conventions and restraints of traditional love: she would have many lovers, both male and female (she had a love affair with a painter Romaine Brooks, of whom you can read in the article “More Than Fifty Shades of Grey In The Grey Life Of Romaine Brooks“).

An extravagant muse

Augustus John, Marchesa Casati, 1919, luisa casati

Augustus John, Marchesa Casati, 1919, Art Gallery of Ontario

Her persona inspired artists of her times from Boldini to Bakst, Marinetti, Balla, Man Ray, Alberto Martini, Van Dongen or John (who was also her lover). Whoever met her, wanted to render her uncanny beauty: she kept her pupils dark with doses of belladonna, rimmed their lids in thick black kohl, dyed her hair fiery red… She dressed up as Medusa or wrapped a snake around her neck instead of a necklace.

A fallen star

Giovanni Boldini, Marchesa Luisa Casati with peacock feathers, 1913, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, luisa casati

Giovanni Boldini, Marchesa Luisa Casati with peacock feathers, 1913, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Her extravagant lifestyle brought her to the brink of poverty: during the world war two she changed her palazzo by the Grand Canal in Venice (where now the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is) for a tiny flat in London. She had amassed a debt the equivalent of 25 millions of dollars; unable to satisfy creditors, her possessions were auctioned off.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

Comments

More in 20th century

  • Dreams that money can buy. Source: Youtube. Dreams that money can buy. Source: Youtube.

    20th century

    Dreams That Money Can Buy? Dadaist Cinema at Its Best

    By

    Dreams that Money Can Buy (1947) is a Dadaist portmanteau movie, an unknown cinematographic masterpiece combining surrealistic and experimental elements. It was produced by Peggy Guggenheim and directed by German avant-garde painter and dada film-theorist Hans Richter, who brought together artists like Max Ernst, Man Ray,...

  • 20th century

    Maya Deren: Experimental Filmmaker and Voodoo Priestess

    By

    Maya Deren (1917-1944) was an experimental filmmaker hailed as a leading pioneer of avant-garde cinema. She was also a writer, poet, photographer, ethnographer and dancer. Her poetic and surreal, 16 mm films layered dreams and realities together with sensations that transcend through space and time. With...

  • Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962, acrylic with metallic enamel paint on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA. Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962, acrylic with metallic enamel paint on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.

    Art History 101

    Pop Art 101: Everything You Need to Know

    By

    Everyone is familiar with Pop Art and everyone can recognize its most iconic artists and artworks. Cartoon characters, food, everyday products, are only a few of Pop Art’s subjects. However, most of us tend to believe that Pop Art is only the colorful images we see...

  • Conceptual art

    Coca-Cola and the Explosive Art of Cildo Meireles

    By

    Protest Art is challenging and controversial. Political protest requires a focus, and protest art gives us a public space where we can have a conversation, with the artist and with each other. Truly great artists reflect back at us the culture, social conditions, and politics of...

  • 20th century

    Emma Amos: The Story of the Postmodernist African-American Artist

    By

    Emma Amos is a great example of how a female, black artist can effect change and become someone in a racist and sexist time. On May 20th, 2020, Amos left us at the age of 83. We want to honor her life and oeuvre by telling...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy