Forever Iconic: Luisa Casati

Luisa loved this photo so much by Man Ray that she give copies of it to friends and her lovers

I have a lot of forever icons. A lot of them were well known but off the beaten path and others are not as so well known. I usually do not write about my forever icons because I feel like I am always learning something new about them. But I decided that this was was worth writing about.

I found out about Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino when I was at my local library and came across this book:

This book was in the biography section and I thought the cover was interesting. Why is this lady on the cover walking with a bunch of wild animals and why is she matching with them? So I checked out the book and read it on the metro while communing to the Smithsonian Museum and back. And wow Luisa was an amazing woman! Her fashion and her life were so iconic! So I decided to share some facts about one of my forever icons:

By Kees van Dongen

Luisa Casati was born on January 23, 1881 and died on June 1, 1957. She was a muse, an Italian heiress, artist’s model and a patron of the arts during the first half of the 20th century. Her full name is Luisa Adele Rosa Maria Amman.

Her father was a very wealthy textile manufacturer and a count. She had one sister. Her mother died when Luisa was 13 and her father died when she was 15. Her parents passing made her and her sister the wealthy ladies in Italy during the late 1890’s. They were both made orphans in a short amount of time but very very wealthy ones nonetheless.

Luisa height was mentioned to be about 6 feet some say she was taller. She had deep red hair and was very trim with very intense eyes and extremely pale skin.

By Kees van Dongen

Her most memorable traits where her deep green eyes which she would enhance with heavy amounts of fake eyelashes, and kohl. There was even a rumor that she dilated her eyes with belladonna. Which is a poison and is extremely toxic

Belladonna

She married quite young at the age of 19 to Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino. Luisa seemed more impressed with his title and wealth then his personality in terms of being in love with him. They had one child together named Cristina Casati Stampa di Soncino. However after the first year of the birth of their only child.

Frida Kahlo in the middle with Cristina on the right.

The couple fell out of love and decided it would be best for both of them to separate. They lived separate lives however legally they were still married until Camillo death in 1946.

However during the time she was living separately from her husband she was known to had many lovers. Although one man stuck with her for many years named Gabriele d’Annunzio (a writer). She described their relationship as intense and he was more experienced than Camillo.

During her separation and her new love Luisa started to come out of her regularly shy shell. She started going out to dances and putting herself more out there and spending large amounts of money which was putting herself in debt in the process.

Her legend of her spending and her features started to be the talk of Europe. Even rumors started to spread around Europe about her weird personal tastes and that she hired servants to serve her while only wearing gold leaves in select places on their bodies. Even her decor in her house were rumor to contain ashes of her ex-lovers. She even had a wax figure of herself in her home and would used it during dark dinner parties. If she found herself in a dull dinner party at her house she would used the wax figure in her place and slip away.

She kept an array of exotic animals as pets including peacocks, and cheetahs. She would often take these animals for walks late at night only wearing a fur coat. She even used her pets as jewelry. Such a painted gold boa constrictor as a necklace or she would make her lovers leave bite marks in the form of a necklace.

Luisa had a huge interest with anything with the dark arts and carried a crystal ball with her and attempted many many times to contact loved ones who had past.

By Man Ray

She was a muse of many popular artists at the time such as Man Ray, and Kees van Dongen to name a few. She wanted to be captured as much as possible by artists because she wanted to live on in these pieces of art.

Painting by Kees van Dongen
Photo by Man Ray

Luisa always played with different kinds of poisons. Her drink of choice was gin and opium.

Her main residence was on the Grand Canals in Italy and where much of her scandals took place. The residence is better known as the residence of Peggy Guggenheim which later became the Guggenheim museum in Venice, Italy:

Source : Guggenheim

Luisa faced bankruptcy in the 1930’s when the Great Depression hit. She accumulated almost $25 million dollars in debt and could not pay off anything to her debtors. Even when she sold all of her belongings in order to pay off some of her debt it still wasn’t enough. There was rumors that one of her enemies were present at one of auction: Coco Chanel. One of the items Coco Chanel bought from the auction were this set of bronzed deer

After Luisa couldn’t fully pay off her debt she went to England to live close to her daughter (who was married at the time). She definitely lived in much humbler surroundings for the rest of her life. A one bedroom apartment.

Luisa did not take getting older well and living in the surroundings that she did in the last half of her life. She did remain friends with some of her people in her past as such Cecil Beaton. He attempted to photograph her in her later years but would always shy away from the camera. Some of her friends would still come by for her seances.

Her neighbors would often find Luisa digging their other people’s trash looking for feathers to put in her hair or anything she could use for her outfits.

Luisa during the height of her fortune and scandal

Luisa died on June 1, 1957 after having a stroke in England at the age of 76. Before Luisa was going to be buried one of her friends broke into her apartment and grabbed a taxidermy beloved pet of hers and pair of false eyelashes so they could be buried with Luisa. There was also a rumor that she was buried wearing leopard from head to toe. The most insulting thing was that her name on her tombstone was spelled wrong: It was written as “Louisa” not “Luisa”

Her personality and fame is still used in fashion culture today. The fashion brand Marchesa was inspired by her and named their brand after her.

In 2007 Alexander McQueen did his spring line paying homage to her:

And those are just a few examples of how impactful her fashion and personality was.

Until next time!!!

Source: Wikipedia, https://www.factinate.com/people/facts-marchesa-luisa-casati/

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