The eccentric Italian heiress Marchesa Luisa Casati, known for wearing live snakes as jewelry and being attended by nude servants, seems like a natural for Carine Roitfeld to emulate. Karl Lagerfeld created the photograph and the sketch seen here in which Carine is costumed as Casati for the September 22, 2003, issue of The New Yorker. Lagerfeld's work illustrated an article titled “The Divine Marquise” written by Judith Thurman. Casati and her sister were acclaimed as the richest women in Italy during the Belle Epoque, spending their inheritance to collect exotic animals and often seen strolling the streets of Venice naked with their pet cheetahs on diamond-studded leashes. Mrrrrrow!
I love how Thurman describes Casati's appearance: "She was tall and cadaverous, with a little feral face swamped by incandescent eyes… She blackened her eyes with kohl, powdered her skin a fungal white, and dyed her hair to resemble a corona of flames; her mouth was a lurid gash…" Despite inheriting her considerable wealth, Casati managed to end her life several million dollars in debt and rummaging through trash bins for decorations for her outfits. If you would like to read more about this enthralling character's influence on modern fashion, pick up Casati's biography Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati or the visual feast The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse.
Carine Roitfeld as Marchesa Casati photograph and sketch by Karl Lagerfeld © 2003 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.