"the Eternal father did not know what he was creating the day he sent her into the world; he modeled and modeled, and when he had finished he looked at his wondrous work and was overwhelmed." Countess de Castigilione
Countess de CastigilioneThe following is just a glimpse of Virginia Oldini Verasis and her obsession with Beauty- She was her own Muse. The photographs of the Countess- most of them taken by Pierre-Louis Pierson span four decades and record her periods of great triumph-and loss.
in Florence- an incredible beauty-daughter of a Marquis, makes a successful marriage at the age of 17 to become Countess Castigilione, mother to Giorgio (born one year after she wed.) comes to the attention of the King of Sardinia and Piedmont- with great success at his court, the Countess takes on the role of emissary with an Italian contingency heading to Paris , her mission to influence and " to succeed by whatever means you wish- but succeed." (these were the instructions given to "C de C" by the Emperor's Prime Minister to secure French aid for Italy in the Emperor's quest to unify the country (1837 -1856)
in Paris- glamorous beauty, fluent in French, in possession of secret codes to communicate her successes at court. Successes come quickly, within weeks she is mistress to Napoleon III, the liaison lasts for a year. After an attempt on Nap III's life, she is banished from his court.
Princess Metternich was "rendered speechless by this miracle of beauty: wonderful hair, the waist of a nymph, and a complexion the color of pink marble! In a word, Venus descended from Olympus! Never have I seen beauty to rival hers, nor shall I see her like again!... She seemed so full of her triumphant beauty, she was so preoccupied by it that after a few moments ... she began to get on your nerves. Not a movement, not a gesture was unstudied."
in Turin- separated from her bankrupt Count, self imposes exile in the Villa Gloria with her son Giorgio (1857-1861)
in Paris- reappears at court as Queen of Etruria at a Costume Ball (1863), from here the C de C moves about on the continent collecting lovers and though many times in financial woe-guards her independence. It is during this period to 1867, that she collaborates with Pierre-Louis Pierson documenting her beauty and chronicling her life. The story continues similarly with C de C drifting from Italy to France, til her death in 1899. Nothing lasts forever.
(information from the book La Divine Comtesse, Pierre Apraxine, Xavier Demange)
EARLY TRIUMPHS"had she been simple and natural she would have unsettled the universe." Princess Metternich
"one sunday afternoon" 1861-1867
Scherzo di Follia 1863-1866
Countess in an ermine cloak 1861-1867
the countess, mirror, giorgio 1863-1867
MODEL MUSE~ PASSION & OBSESSION
"infatuated with herself, always classically draped, her magnificent hair her only coiffure, she was strange in her personality and her ways. She would appear at gatherings like a goddess descended from the clouds... She almost never spoke to women...she would wait, patient and indifferent, for her hosts to pay their compliments...she seemed to be saying to all: I am not here for you, I am of a different essence. " General Fleury
anne boleyn 1861-1865
from the series the rose peignoir 1861-1867
rachel september 1 1893
the opera ball 1861-1867the book citied is from the Met's 2000 exhibition : La Divine Comtesse, Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione" and a complex look at all the photographs- highly recommended. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE FROM THE COLLECTION OF MAYER AND PIERSON ARCHIVES OR PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
Castiglione became the model and muse for future aesthetes, including Montesquiou, Marquise Casati, & Christian Berard. It was her wish in a handwritten will that no mention of her after her death be made- perhaps it was because she would not be present to orchestrate the CASTIGLIONE she had created. I think however- the Countess, vanity overcoming her- would be pleased.