Tuesday, 26 April 2011

I only just found out that the Countess di Castiglione, Virginia Oldoini (1837–1899, the lady captured here by Pierre-Louis Pierson in Game of Madness), is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery... right after we got back from Paris. I have long been fascinated by the photographs of her, of which Oldoini and Pierson reportedly took around seven hundred (including more than 400 portraits) over a period of 40 years.

Believed to be one of the most beautiful women of her time, with eyes that would apparently change from green to violet, Oldoini did not take well to the aging of her body. During the later years of her life the Countess became a virtual reclusive, only leaving the house at night, her face hidden by veils; spending her days in rooms decorated black, the blinds permanently drawn. Unwilling to witness her fading beauty, Virginia removed all of the mirrors she had previously admired herself in.

But aside from her sad demise Oldoini should be remembered for her work as a photographer, performer & artist- some have suggested she was "the Cindy Sherman of the nineteenth century"- and one of the world's first fashion models. Pierson often handled the technical aspects of their shoots, yet it was the Countess who planned & directed the frames, sourced the garments, performed for the camera and hand-coloured the photographs to her satisfaction.

I found a really interesting article on my internet travels at Erin Alyssa's blog, exploring Oldoini's work from a critical/feminist perspective, which you can read here.


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