During the first half of the twentieth century, the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957) was italian heiress who lived in an eccentric and splendorous life. Her evening strolls made her quite scandalous because she was naked beneath her furs, walking around with cheetahs on diamond studded leashes. And, she gets stranger: she used to have dinner with mannequins. It’s believed that some of those contained ashes from past lovers. That makes her creepy… but insanely interesting. As Europe’s most notorious celebrity, all of these odd traits captivated and inspired some of the most influential artists of her time. She was painted by Boldini and Augustus John, sketched by Drian and Alastair, and photographed by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, among others. Jean Cocteau praised her strange beauty; Jack Kerouac dedicated poems to her; Fortuny, Poiret, and Erte dressed her. She continues to inspire top designers today, including John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld. The Marchesa’s activities led her to become 25 million dollars, in debt and was rumored to have dug around dumpsters near the end of her life looking for feathers to put in her hair. Ala “Grey Gardens”.
Luisa died in 1957 and was buried with black and leopardskin finery, a pair of fake eyelashes, and stuffed pekinese dogs.