• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2155


    31 March 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 73

    ADOLPH DE MEYER (1868-1946)

    Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1912

    Price Realised  


    ADOLPH DE MEYER (1868-1946)
    Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1912
    gelatin silver print, printed c. 1940
    signed in pencil (in the margin); numbered '040 A' in pencil and Artist Archive copyright stamp (on the verso)
    14 x 11in. (35.6 x 27.9cm.)

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    De Meyer decorated fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harpers Bazaar until 1932. A true visionary, de Meyer allowed his subjects to project their rightful personalities in front of the lens, giving them a platform on which to shine. Here Casati eludes the camera with a severe intensity and mysteriousness. It is not hard to see why Richard Avedon respected his predecessor and chose to live with this print of Casati, admiring it on his walls every day.

    De Meyer's romantic, pictorialist style embodied early 20th century glamour and gave him access to the elite upper-class circles of which the likes of the Marchesa Luisa Casati were firmly entrenched. A celebrity and femme fatale, the Marchesa Luisa Casati's famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. She captivated artists and literati figures such as Giovanni Boldini, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, Ezra Pound and Jack Kerouac.

    In 1910, Casati took up residence at the Palazzo dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal in Venice (now the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection). Her soirées there would become legendary. Casati collected a menagerie of exotic animals such as cheetahs, walking them down the street while wearing nothing but furs. She astonished Venetian society by wearing live snakes as jewelry, exotic makeup and displaying an unparalleled fashion sense. She has been an inspiration to fashion designers for a century. Even a fashion label, Marchesa, has been named in her honor.

    When Casati died at the age of seventy-six, she was buried wearing not only her black and leopard skin finery but a pair of false eyelashes. She shares her coffin with one of her beloved stuffed Pekingese dogs.

    Photographic prints by de Meyer are rare as he destroyed many before the war.


    From the collection of Richard Avedon


    Camera Work 40, August 1912; de Meyer, Knopf, 1976, p. 37; A Singular Elegance: The Photographs of Baron Adolph de Meyer, Chronicle Books, 1994, p. 59; Eye of the Beholder: Photographs from the Collection of Richard Avedon, Fraenkel Gallery, 2006, n.p.