Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Categories: Europe | History

Virginia Elisabeta Luisa Carlotta Antonietta Teresa Maria Oldoini was born into an aristocratic family in 1837 in Florence. Later she became known in Parisian society as the Countess di Castiglione or simply La Castiglione, the favorite of the last monarch of France, Napoleon III, the first beauty and favorite model of the court photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson.

At the age of 17, the girl was married to the Italian Count Francesco di Castiglione, 12 years her senior, and in 1855 she gave birth to his son. During the Countess's journey through Paris, her cousin, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, gave her the task of persuading Napoleon III not to hinder the unification of Italy. As a result, Virginia became the emperor's mistress, which her husband was not at all happy about and filed for divorce. The connection with the ruler of France opened the doors for the beauty to the society of members of the royal family. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

The extraordinary beauty of the Italian woman attracted the court photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson, who made about 400 portraits of her. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Pierson liked to shoot the Countess in theatrical costumes, in different poses and separately her legs. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Portrait of the Countess by Michele Gordigiani

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Moreover, the photographer only took pictures, it was Virginia who chose the pose, dress, scenery and angle.

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

So we can safely call the Countess the first model. She also did the final editing, sent photos to print and often painted on top of them.

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

The Countess starred in luxurious and elegant dresses that she wore at court. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Over time, she looked for inspiration for new outfits in the theater, ancient myths and literature. It is also known about several pictures of her bare legs, which are somewhat voyeuristic in nature. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

After the break with Napoleon III, Countess di Castiglione managed to play another important role in another political event — during the Franco-Prussian War, she dissuaded Otto von Bismarck from occupying Paris.

With age, the countess withdrew from society and became an eccentric recluse, not wanting to see herself and show others what time had done to her. She lived in a mansion with curtained mirrors and black-covered walls, went outside only at night.

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

The Countess died in 1899 at the age of 62 from apoplexy, leaving behind a collection of photographs, several novels dedicated to her and one biography. 

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

Virginia Oldoini - Countess, mistress of the Emperor and the first model of the XIX century

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