Book Review: The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse

A free-spirited heiress living a lavish life of scandal, sex, and outrageous fashion – perhaps a description of Paris Hilton’s antics? But while said contemporary heiress’s escapages leave a fleeting impression, the Italian-born Marchesa Casati immortalized herself as muse, cultural icon, and arts and fashion patron. This visual Biography presents a luscious collection of paintings, photographs, and venerable costumes that attempt to penetrate the enigma of the Marchesa, born in 1881 to an affluent family. Aptly titled, it certainly delivers a string of portraits, but not a comprehensive understanding. (Readers will have to turn to Ryersson and Yaccarino’s 2004 biography, Infinite Variety, for meaningful discussion about the actual mind of the Marchesa.) While the book’s aesthetic foundation expresses her range of influence and inspiration, the text is mainly a retelling of her eccentric, grandiose episodes revolving around sexuality, the occult, and an exotic menagerie. Like the scores of male artists and writers before them, the authors are clearly enamoured with their subject, making Portraits a testament to their muse.

by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino – Abrams
reviewed by Meagan Allison-Hancock (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 9)

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