December 20th, 2014
A DIVINE MARQUISE IN VENICE Inspiring muse of poets, painters and photographers. Precursor of Perfomance and Body Art. Fashion priestess, wore Fortuny, Bakst, Erte’, Poiret.
Great collector of Futurist art, possessed works by Boccioni, Balla, De Pero.
Organized memorable parties in Venice, where she lived at Ca’Venier dei Leoni, later to become Peggy Guggenhim‘s home.
Used real pythons and other snakes as body ornaments. Kept tigers, cheetahs and a white gorilla in her garden…
Her most quoted statement: “I want to be a work of Art”.The visual biography of Luisa Amman, better known as the ‘Divine’ Marquise Casati, is now on at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice (until March 8th, 2015, closed on Tuesadays).
No doubt Palazzo Fortuny’s dark but luxuriant interiors, made magical by Mariano Fortuny’s world famous orientalizing textiles and lamps, are in touch with the personality of this eccentric ‘Dark Lady’, who adored wearing black and tried her best to look like a nightbird (her pupils dilated by atropa belladonna, heavy kohl make up around her eyes…). Her performances always took place at night: she arrived at St Mark’s Square with her gondola, wearing real snakes as jewels, accompanied by black servants covered just by gold leaf, preceded by two cheetahs on diamond lashes…
Luisa Amman, A DIVINE MARQUISE IN VENICE, was a Milanese aristocrat born in 1881 from an enormously rich family of textile industrialists, married Marquis Casati, but he was certainly not the most important man of her life.
The first great man she met was the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, in 1903, while he was still living with Eleonora Duse. He was looking for a Muse, and triggered the young Marquise narcissistic love for continuous transformations and more and more transgressive disguises. Like two peacocks, they duelled on the international scene using their liaison to show off their personalities. Hard to say if they really loved each other, but their very intense relationship was doomed to become a long friendship, and the Poet said of her she was the only woman that had never ceased to astonish him.
Casati, A DIVINE MARQUISE IN VENICE, bought the abandoned Ca’Venier dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal, in 1910, and here she transformed herself into a designer completely restructuring the interiors. Here, in September 1913, she gave three memorable parties , the most galmorous being the second: she wore a ‘White Harlequin” dress designed by Leon Bakst (her relationship with Russian Ballet was very formative and long lasting), and greeted her guests at the water entrance along the Grand Canal, where the steps had been covered with tigers’skins. In Venice she met painter Arturo Martini, that worked at er portraits as a sort of Renaissance ‘court artist’. Two other magnificent portraits were executed by Boldini.
The Marquise second ‘great man’ was the leader of the Futurist movement, Tomaso Filippo Marinetti, that she met in 1913. Through him she became icon of the avangardes, met other Futurists such as Boccioni, and became to collect their works at a very early stage.In 1920 she moved to Paris, where she continued to dilapidate her patrimony in palaces, works of art, jewels, dresses, fabulous parties and other folies. With her tall, androgynous figgure, Casati caught the eye of other primadonnas of th day, such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Romaine Brooks, Colette.
She also inspired the Surrealists. Man Ray’s portrait, where she appears like a six eyed Medusa, didn’t fail to please her.Marchesa Casato died poor in London in 1957. Here Cecil Beaton ‘stole’ some of her last images.
Well after her death, she inspired John Galliano collection for Dior in 1998 and Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel cruise collection in 2010.