Friday, July 9, 2010

Portrait of a Muse

Born in 1881 in Milan, Marchesa Luisa Casati was one of the most artistically represented woman in history right after Cleopatra and the Virgin Mary. Sculptures, photographs, sketches and paintings preserve her image and she continues to inspire fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano. The Marchesa line is named in her honor and her gothic, androgynous look reappears on fashion runways every few seasons some 53 years after her death. She posed for Man Ray and Cecil Beaton and her devotees included Erte, Jack Kerouac, Jean Cocteau, Tallulah Bankhead, Tennessee Williams, Ezra Pound, Colette and Coco Chanel. She is quite simply the most intriguing person you've possibly never heard of.

She blended the macabre with the outlandish in her demeanor, surroundings, and dress. She was known for her black eyeliner, arsenic pale skin, bobbed hair and emerald green eyes. She had scandalous love affairs with both men and women and her decadence knew no bounds. She kept pet cheetahs on diamond studded leashes, dabbled in the occult, wore live snakes as jewelry and was partial to evening strolls with nude servants gilded in gold leaf lighting the dark with torches. She collected friends, art, decor, clothes, houses, pets and lovers with an abandon that was delightfully mad. She never lost her sense of style was buried in leopard skin and false eyelashes with her taxidermied Pekinese dog at her feet. Her grave inscribed with a quote from Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra - "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety".

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