Mark Amory wrote, "When a second parent dies, some people feel threatened by death themselves, some feel overwhelmed with grief or regrets, some feel liberated and others feel all of these things." Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, eccentric Italian heiress, muse and patroness of the Arts, upon finding herself parentless at an early age, set about living a life more extraordinary than most.
Indeed, some might argue that she was a legend in her own lifetime, dominating, decorating, and delighting European society for almost three decades with her scandalous lifestyle, bizarre dress and intriguing choice of pets and live jewellery.
|Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Sonico as portrayed by Cecil Beaton|
Marchesa Luisa Casati could possibly be the most represented woman in Art after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra. Legion numbers of painted portraits, sculptures and photographs were made in her image. Giovanni Boldini, Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and Cecil Beaton are just a few of the artists who she inspired.
She graced the dining rooms of Italian palazzos and English country houses, often with a pet snake as a companion. She attended balls and cocktail parties the length and breadth of Europe, dressed to live up to her aim of being 'a living work of art'.
|'a living work of art' - Marchesa Luisa Casati, photograph by Cecil Beaton|
She set trends rather than followed them. Her lively entourage of devoted followers comprised aesthetes, artists, bon-vivants, poets, writers, dancers and dandies. And, for royalty, aristocracy and commoners alike, she amused and outraged in equal measure.
|the style of the Marchesa Luisa Casati as captured by Man Ray in 1924|
And so, finding ourselves parentless, surely through misfortune rather than carelessness to misquote Oscar Wilde, having stopped counting birthdays and being far more preoccupied with leisure than with work, we contemplate new Casati-inspired career paths.
Shall we be, perhaps, waited upon by gilded naked youths? Should we make up our faces deathly white, dye our hair red, paint our lips vermilion and replace Teddy with a boa constrictor [in a box, of course] when attending the Opera? Dare we walk the streets of Budapest clad only in furs. Shall wax mannequins take the place of dinner guests when insufficiently amusing and entertaining people are in town?
|The Hattatts consider the future, as seen in a looking glass at the Ari Kupsus Gallery|
Whatever, we are decided to follow in the fetching footsteps of the Marchesa as we patronise the Arts amongst the young talent of Budapest. But, at all costs, we must avoid her final fate of running up debts of millions of dollars. Carpe Diem!
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