Luisa Casati (1881 – 1957) was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. A celebrity and femme fatale, the marchesa’s famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. She dramatically altered her appearance to become a bewitchingly beautiful figure from some bizarre fairy tale. She wore live snakes as jewellery and was infamous for her evening strolls; naked beneath her furs whilst parading cheetahs on diamond-studded leads. Nude servants gilded in gold leaf attended her. Bizarre wax mannequins sat as guests at her dining table, some of them rumoured to contain the ashes of past lovers. Without question, the Marchesa was the most scandalous woman of her day.
She became a muse to Italian Futurists , captivated artists and literary figures and had numerous portraits painted and sculpted by various artists. She posed for photographs by Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Baron Adolph de Meyer. Many of them she paid for, as a wish to “commission her own immortality”. She is famous for saying “I want to be a living work of art”.
Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by unknown photographer, (ca. 1903) via
“Luisa Casati” by Alberto Martini ca. 1906. Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati on one of her night strolls along the Grand Canal in Venice
Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Adolf Demeyer, 1913
Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Man Ray, 1922