Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Countess de Castiglione

Narcissist, surrealist, courtesan, Virginia Oldoini has been called many things, but right now she is an inspiration to me. Born in Florence to an upper crust family, she married Francesco Verasis, conte di Castiglione, at the age of 17.  Travelling to Paris with her husband, her cousin,  Camillo, conte di Cavour, a minister to, the King of Sardinia beseeched Virginia to use her enchanting ways on Napoleon III,  to strengthen relations between Italy and France.This worked in some manner as the two began a torrid affair.  In this time she socialised with European royalty and was infamous for her ostentatious costumes;

'One of her most infamous outfits was a Queen of Hearts costume. George Frederic Watts painted her portrait in 1857. She was described as having long, wavy blonde hair, pale skin, a delicate oval face, and eyes that constantly changed colour from green to an extraordinary blue-violet.'- wiki

In 1856 she met Pierre-Louis Pierson who she would collaborate on over 400 self portraits, she was basically a blogger, before it was cool. 

'Fascinated by her own beauty, the countess would attempt to capture all its facets and re-create for the camera the defining moments of her life. Far from being merely a passive subject, it was she who decided the expressive content of the images and assumed the art director's role, even to the point of choosing the camera angle. She also gave precise directions on the enlargement and repainting of her images in order to transform the simple photographic documents into imaginary visions—taking up the paintbrush herself at times. Her painted photographs are among the most beautiful examples of the genre. ' - Malcolm Daniel, The Metropolitan Musuem of Art

As her beauty withered with age, the Countess retreated to an apartment in the Place Vendôme  and painted it it funerary black and banished mirrors, only going out at night hidden by veils and her elaborate costumes. 

Majority of images from here.

I am now going to wander around in a floor length veil.
I recommend watching this short film inspired by the lady if you are at all intrigued.


  1. she sounds like a very talented lady albeit a bit eccentric, but talented nonetheless.

  2. Such an amazing post Hannah! I love her too, such a fascinating and inspiring lady. xxx

    1. She is so fascinating, do feel there should be a full length film about her! xxxx

  3. I just watched this short film. Which has only served to fire my obsession with la Countess Castiglione. Love, love, love! Thanks for posting this!