Luisa, the Marchesa Casati, loved animals. It is said that she had a deep understanding and could connect with creatures thought to be un-tamable. At her palazzo in Venice she kept a coterie of albino blackbirds, white peacocks, a pair of cheetahs, her beloved greyhounds and at least one snake.
While she loved the wild hearts of her pets, she also loved the visual impact their presence afforded her: no one would ever forget the image of the Marchesa walking her cheetahs with diamond studded leashes at midnight, wearing only a fur coat. It is still talked about almost 100 years later!
She loved to wear her pet snakes as jewelry, and came to be known as “Medusa of the Grand Hotels”.
Upon her arrival at the Ritz in Paris, the staff would be responsible for procuring live rabbits to feed her boa constrictor, as well as fetching the snake when it decided to go “visiting” in other guests rooms.
I’ve always felt that, from an aesthetic standpoint, snakes are one of the most beautiful forms. Their undulating elegance, and fascinating texture. In that way, I agree with the Marchesa. But , I wouldn’t enjoy wearing jewelry I have to feed. Or worry about being bitten by.
With that in mind, as my second piece in honor of La Casati, I’ve carved a ring of four, intertwining snakes flanking a faceted green onyx cabochon. It is bold, and very powerful in appearance- but without all the work of a live snake.
In my previous post about the Marchesa, a lovely reader recommended the book, The Marchesa Casati; Portraits of a Muse by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino as well as their corresponding website www.marchesacasati.com . I couldn’t agree more! Both are exquisite.