“I want to be a living work of art” so proclaimed to the masses, Luisa Casati, and so she was! Like Rubinstein her contemporary she was represented by more artists than any other female of her time. However, there are two distinct differences between the Rubinstein portraits (see http://david-toms.blogspot.com/2009/08/helena-rubinstein-portraits.html) and those of Casati. Even though Rubinstein had commissioned some of the most well known artists of her time, the portraits are of a woman, who wanted to be remembered for what she wanted to be. That is, a beautiful, and elegant woman. Casati on the other hand wanted to be remembered for what she was, an exotic creature, ever changing and immortal.
Artists such as Augustus John, Giovanni Boldini, Kees Van Dongen, and Romaine Brooks immortalised her on canvas.
Augustus John 1919
Kees Von Dongen
Drian and Alberto Martini sketched away to their heart’s content, Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Aldoph de Meyer clicked their camera shutters with gay abandon.
Alberto Martini 1906
And not let’s forget the sculptures by Jacob Epstein and Giacomo Balla.
Settings ranged from the canals of Venice to the wild west of America, with Casati in some fantastic garb, a high priestess of the bizarre one minute a knight in shining armour the next.
Alberto Martini 1906
Kees Von Dongen 1921
Ignacio Zuloaga 1922
On last year’s trip to Italy, while wondering around the Modern art Museum in Rome I stumbled across the below portrait by Boldini. The wonderful thing about it is that it is sitting in a room all by itself, so that nothing can take anything away from it. I must have sat down for a full 20 minutes just taking it all in, even imagining at some stage that the fabled Marchesa’s own eyes had gazed on this likeness and that she had even touched it.
She still continues to inspire artists today. Alas poor Madame Rubinstein doesn’t. While we still have Rubinstein’s portraits for posterity, Casati is still being studied and evolving.
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