Countess Virginia Oldoini Verasis di Castiglione (1835–1899)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Approximately 14.3 x 9.9 cm (5 5/8 x 3 7/8 in.) each
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Not on view
In the last years of her life, Countess de Castiglione, now a prematurely aged, toothless, and bald recluse, invited her former collaborator Pierre-Louis Pierson, himself over seventy years old, to photograph her in the various attires of her youth. Two identical sets of ten images, each assembled in booklet form, show her in a ball gown, striking different poses as in the tableaux vivants she had composed thirty years earlier. In one of the booklets, she disguised her girth with pinned-down slivers of paper indicating where the negative should be retouched. The countess described her outfit on the cover as a dress of "pompadour pink silk, peignoir of black gauze, real roses, and a curly blond wig." She named the set "Série des roses," giving each image a title appropriate to its mood. The countess called this portrait "Rose Trémière," or hollyhock, which in France is associated with the grave.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed in ink on paper sleeve, recto TL: "1A"; inscribed in ink on paper sleeve, recto T to B: "Serie des Roses // de Passy // des Tulieries // de Compiègne // du Caffe Voisin // de Boulogne // de 1856 a 1895 // Mémes robe // soie rose Pompadour // peignoir gaz noir // roses naturelles // blonde frisée".
Descendants of Adolphe Braun; [Galerie Texbraun, Paris]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, February 20, 1985
Musée d'Orsay. "La Divine Comtesse: Photographs of the Countess Castiglione," October 11, 1999–January 23, 2000.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "La Divine Comtesse: Photographs of the Countess Castiglione," September 18, 2000–December 31, 2000.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 339.
Apraxine, Pierre, and Xavier Demange. La Divine Comtesse: Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione. New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. no. 88, p. 185–6, ill. 152.
A series of ten poses entitled "Séries des roses." Two identical sets, each kept in a sleeve, show the sitter in a ball gown striking different poses. One set remains as the camera photographed it (2005.100.387.1-.10); the other shows the retouchings intended by the Countess, indicated by bands of paper pinned onto the photographs (2005.100.388.1-.10). These alterations were faithfully transferred to the negatives. On the cover page of the sleeve containing the retouched photographs there is a list of titles that reads like a last farewell to a fashionable life: "Série des Roses / de Passy / des Tulieries / de Compiègne / du Caffé Voisin / de Boulogne / de 1856 à 1895..." This is followed by an aide-mémoire: "Same dress / pink silk Pompadour / black gauze peignoir / fresh roses / curly blonde [wig]." [PA; "La Divine Comtesse", p. 185-6]