1800s Fashion Illustrated in Octave Uzanne “L’Art et les Artifices de la beauté” (1902)

Octave Uzanne (1851 – 1931) was a 19th-century French bibliophile, writer, publisher, and journalist.

One of Uzanne’s interests was female fashion, about which he wrote a number of books and articles that were later translated into English.

The  L’Art et les artifices de beauté was first published in 1900.



Le manteau d’hermine. — 1840.

L’art Les Artifices de la beauté, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 257 via



“Le gant en 1830.”

Redrawn version of illustration showing lady wearing long gloves as part of her 1830-style outfit.

Source: L’art et les Artifices de la beauté, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 281 via



Le boa de fourrure. — 1830.

L’art Les Artirices de la beaute, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 256 via


“L’âge romantique des simples guipures.”

Redrawn version of illustration of a woman in ca. late 1820’s clothes playing a harp.

Source: L’art et les Artifices de la beauté, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 208 via


“Le parapluie anglais. — 1815.”

Redrawn version of 1815 illustration.

L’art Les Artifices de la beaute, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 312 via



“L’éventail de plumes. — 1800.”

Rather smudgy redrawing of ca. 1800 illustration showing lady holding a folding fan.

Source: L’Art et les artifices de la beauté, 6 ed. Uzanne, Octave. Paris 1902; page 304 via


A Collection of Vintage Photos featuring the Countess de Castiglione (La Divine Comtesse)

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione (1837 – 1899), better known as La Castiglione, was an Italian aristocrat who was a special agent for the cause of Italian unification, the mistress of Napoleon III, and a mysterious recluse notorious for her numerous love affairs. She was born to a noble Florentine family and at 17 she married the Count di Castiglione. It was a bad match; she cheated on him shamelessly and eventually left him bankrupt. In 1857 they separated. She left Paris in 1858, due to the scandal surrounding her liaison with Napoléon III.

Before that, while still living in Paris, the Countess had created a sensation. The beautiful statuesque countess was both decadent and extravagant. Lavish balls where prevalent during the period and she became known for her flamboyant entrances in elaborate dress at the imperial court. One of her most infamous outfits was a “Queen of Hearts” costume. She was even considered the most beautiful woman of her time and was described as having long, wavy blonde hair, pale skin, a delicate oval face, and eyes that constantly changed colour from green to an extraordinary blue-violet. Her vanity was as famous as her beauty and she would send albums of her portraits to friends and admirers.

In 1865 she arrived in Paris again, to plead for Italian unity on behalf of her cousin, then a minister to the king of Sardinia. After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, Oldoini led an increasingly secluded existence, which gave rise to fantastic speculation as to her affairs. Her declining years were spent in an apartment in the Place Vendôme, where she had the rooms decorated in funereal black, the blinds kept drawn, and mirrors banished—apparently so she would not have to confront her advancing age and loss of beauty. She would only leave the apartment at night.


The Countess´s raging narcissism found in photography the perfect ally, and she was a significant figure in the early history of photography.

In 1856 she began sitting for the firm Mayer and Pierson, photographers favored by the imperial court. Over the next four decades she directed Pierre-Louis Pierson to help her create 700 different photographs in which she re-created the signature moments of her life for the camera. She spent a large part of her personal fortune and even went into debt to execute the project. Most of the photographs depict the Countess in her theatrical outfits, such as the Queen of Hearts dress. Many of the portraits record the countess’s triumphant moments in Parisian society, wearing the extravagant gowns and costumes in which she appeared at soirées and masked balls, in others she assumes roles drawn from the theater, opera, literature, and her own imagination.

A number of photographs depict her in poses risqué for the era—notably, images that expose her bare legs and feet. In these photos, her head is cropped out.

Robert de Montesquiou, a Symbolist poet, dandy, and avid art collector, was fascinated by the Countess. He spent thirteen years writing a biography, La Divine Comtesse, which appeared in 1913. After her death, he collected 433 of her photographs, all of which entered the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Scherzo di Follia

Scherzo di Follia by Pierre-Louis Pierson 1863–66, printed 1940s

[The Opera Ball]

The Opera Ball by Pierre-Louis Pierson,1861–67, printed 1895–1910

Sunday by Pierre Louis Pierson, 1860s

[Countess de Castiglione as Elvira at the Cheval Glass]

Countess de Castiglione as Elvira at the Cheval Glass by Pierre-Louis Pierson,1861–67

La Marquise Mathilde

La Marquise Mathilde by Pierre-Louis Pierson, 1861–66