When I read about the Marchesa Luisa Casati, the eccentric Italian socialite whose life and legacy are the inspiration for Georgina Chapman’s line “Marchesa”, I went absolutely nuts for her. Here was a woman who took her life’s motto very seriously indeed – I want to be a living work of art, said she and so she was. She wore couture everywhere, even when walking her greyhounds and dalmatians; she commissioned paintings and sculptures to ensure her immortality… even when the money ran dry, she was rumoured to be seen rummaging through rubbish bins in the streets of London, looking for feathers to decorate her hair.
My favourite part is the inscription on her gravestone in Brompton Cemetery (which I must visit one day) it reads:
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety”
from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra
One of my friends summed her up quite nicely – Carrie Bradshaw on speed.
It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived. The decline was gradual, like that of a person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established relentless reality. First came a dip in evening temperatures, then days of continuous rain, confused gusts of Atlantic wind, dampness, the fall of leaves and the changing of the clocks – though there were still occasional moments of reprieve, mornings when one could leave the house without a coat and the sky was cloudles and bright. But they were like false signs of recovery in a patient upon whom death has passed its sentence. By December, the new season was entrenched and the city was covered almost every day by an ominous steely-grey sky, like one in a painting by Mantegna or Veronese, the perfect backdrop to the crucifixtion of Christ or to a day beneath the bedclothes.
– The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton
She also posed in attitudes, holding things. Pre-Raphaelite, she combed out her long, black hair to stream straight down from a centre parting and thoughtfully regarded herself as she held a tiger-lily from the garden under her chin, her knees pressed close together. A la Toulouse-Lautrec, she dragged her hair sluttishly across her face and sat down on a chair with her legs apart and a bowl of water and a towel at her feet…
– The Magic Toyshop, Angela Carter
I don’t fall in love easily, but when I do, I fall hard. Seek these two out.