Married very young to Italian Count Francesco Verasis di Castiglione (at just 17), Countess Virginia Oldoini had managed to acquire an interesting notoriety as a seductress in France when she was sent to Paris in order to get Napoleon III on the side of the Italian unification. However, the journey ended with the Countess becoming Napoleon III’s mistress.
Clearly enjoying her own looks and reputation, she entered the studio Mayer & Pierson in 1856 with the intention of creating a series of self-celebrating self-portraits.
In the series you can find in the gallery, note how the Countess carefully picked gowns, poses, angles. She is said to also have helped in post-production, at time painting over the photographs herself. All portraits get more creative by the minute, as the countess uses her figure to reinterpret elements of myth, literature, and theater.
What happened to Virginia Oldoini, you ask? She left the flattering world of high society to become a strange lady, living in the darkness of her apartment with the curtains drawn and just going outside at night, who knows where to, until the end of her days in 1899.