I first heard of the Marchesa when Georgina Chapman was discussing the inspiration for her line in an article featured in Harper's Bazaar a while ago. A new book on Marchesa Luisa Casati has recently been published entitled: The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse. It is on my must-read list.
In speaking of her muse, Georgina remarked, "Perhaps if she was alive today, she would be a designer."
The dramatic Italian heiress was a patron of the arts in early 20th century Europe. She ran with a crowd that included Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, and Jack Kerouac. She was also well known for her legendary parties that she threw in her Venetian palazzo on the Grand Canal... and landing 25 million in debt.
A biographical site on the Marchesa adds a lot of interesting details to the portrait of this character. "The Marchesa Luisa Casati was Europe's most notorious celebrity, and its most eccentric. For the first three decades of the 20th century she astounded the continent. She traveled to Venice, Rome, Capri and Paris - collecting palaces and a menagerie of exotic animals."
"Nude servants gilded in gold leaf attended her. Bizarre wax mannequins sat as guests at her dining table." She wore live snakes as jewelry, and was infamous for her evening strolls, naked beneath her furs, parading cheetahs on diamond studded leashes."
I love characters, and this one is particularly interesting, although I am especially envious of her cheetahs...
(Photos of Georgina Chapman from Harper's Bazaar, shot by Peter Lindburgh).