Monday, June 05, 2006

The Divine Marquise


Marchesa Luisa Casati – was the muse of muses! Like some Siren with spells behind her bush-baby eyes her one-time lover, Augustus John, said of her, ‘The Marchesa ought to be shot, stuffed and displayed in a glass case’, a fate that would have immensely fulfilled this exhibitionist who was the muse for so many of the creative souls of her time.
These included Diaghilev - who she fascinated. T.E. Lawrence - who she intimidated. Poiret, Fortuny, Bakst and Erte - who enshrouded her in their most wondrous haute couture. Arthur Rubinstein - who she frightened. Epstein - who cast her head in bronze. Martini - who scratched her legacy in ink. Jean Cocteau - who was inspired by her extravagance and, being the Grand Master of the Order of the Priory of Sion, he knew all about extravagance. Man Ray - who surpassed his own brilliant self in his photos of this notorious libertine with her ‘bush-baby from hell’ appearance, interest in the occult and a menagerie of increasingly exotic animals.

Her leisurely walks down the Piazza San Marco consisted of two African cheetahs in turquoise leashes, held by 2 shaved and oiled Nubians who held lighted torches aloft. At the centre of this urban tableau – The Marchesa Luisa Casati, her very self, stark-naked except for sables and stilletoes!, Of course, at home, snakes prevailed!
Sometimes entwined around her neck at lavish dinner parties, at other times slithering through her hair. In attendance at her palazzo the ‘Belle Epoque’s’ most wondrous idol of perversity surrounded herself with gilded youth, who catered for her every whim.

That dissolute rake of a poet, Gabrielle D’Annunzio, who was her lover for many years, said of her, ‘She was the only woman who ever astonished me’. Praise indeed from this particular profligate who renounced his fabled anarchy for Mussolini’s Fascism!!

Her hair, like an inferno, her face of pallor, kohl-eyed, her skeletal form glowing, icily and moonlit, she strode nude through the night in Venice and attended the ballet in Paris dressed in a gown of egret with peacock feathers in her hair and streams of blood from the slit neck of a chicken trickling in rivulets along her snow-white arms!!!!
This Muse intrigued and captivated the world-shakers of the day in some strange, spell that was impossible to either resist or shed. Having spent a vast fortune and achieving a debt of $25 million, she came to London to live in a tiny bed-sit in Knightsbridge surrounded by beautiful young men and a pack of Pekinese dogs.
The world must not forget her – this Muses of Muses, glimpsing out of the halcyon dark, who died in 1957 and is buried in Old Brompton Cemetery. All pilgrimages welcomed. Her grave reads,
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite beauty’
Cultural Virus

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