Inspiration: Marchesa Luisa Casati 1881 – 1957

Years ago my dear college friend and then flatmate leant me a book on the Marchesa Luisa Casati. I was amazed by this woman and her lavish sense of style and eccentricity. I know my talented friend was very taken by Luisa Casati and used her as a muse and the inspiration for the name of her very successful fashion business.

Indeed, Luisa Cassati has inspired many a fashion designer and collection… Like John Galliano‘s stunning 1998 Spring/Summer Christian Dior collection which is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Fashion Institute.

Luisa Adele Rosa Maria von Amann, an Italian heiress was born in Milan on 23 January 1881. She lived her life following her desire to “…be a living work of art”.

In 1900 Luisa married Camillo, Marquis Casati Stampa di Soncino and became Luisa, Marquise Casati Stampa di Soncino. The couple had one daughter but lived in separate houses. After 14 years they legally separated, due to Luisa‘s constant adulterous behaviour although they never divorced.


Luisa was famous throughout Europe for her extravagant parties, especailly as she hostessed the Ballet Russes, regarded as the best ballet company of the 20th century. This striking six foot tall and thin vision, adorned her neck with live snakes as necklaces and lead around two live cheetahs on diamond encrusted leashes.Luisa‘s eccentric behaviour attracted the well known writers of the day like Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, Gabriele d’Annunzio and Jack Kerouac. Her portrait was painted and sculpted by Giovanni BoldiniRomaine BrooksPaolo Troubetzkoy and was photographed by Man Ray. The painting above by Augustus John is one of the most popular paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Thousands of these works were commissioned by Casati herself, to ensure her own immortality.

Marchesa Luisa Casati’s extravagant lifestyle literally made her life a riches to rags story, by 1930 she had accumulated a personal debt of over $24 million. Unable to pay back her creditors, Luisa Casati’s personal possessions were auctioned off and she fled to London where she lived out the rest of her life in abject poverty. Casati did manage to immortalise herself and really fulfilled the Shakespearean inscription on her tombstone, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety”. She was reportedly buried wearing her usual black with leopardskin and a pair of false eyelashes!

You can read more here.

Have a wonderfuly inspired Monday.