Dixon exhibition photograph countess de Castiglione allure of creative self absorption
Pierre-Louis Pierson, The Eyes, 1863-66. Gelatin silver print, ca. 1930s. Private collection

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Countess de Castiglione: The Allure of Creative Self-Absorption

Apr 28, 2019 - Jul 14, 2019

Presented by: The Joe Orgill Family Fund for Exhibitions

Organized by: Dixon Gallery and Gardens

In 1854, a sixteen-year-old newlywed named Virginia Oldoini Verasis (1837-1899) assumed the title of the Countess of Castiglione, and made that new identity her own. A great beauty, grande horizontale, and mistress to Napoleon III, the Countess was an iconic figure of the glamorous Second Empire. In an era when the average person might be photographed once in his or her lifetime, the Countess commissioned more than 400 images of herself from the Parisian studio photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson and others. She spent much of her fortune, even going into debt, in pursuing this creative endeavor.

Countess de Castiglione: The Allure of Creative Self-Absorption features over thirty of these photographs surrounding the Dixon Gallery and Gardens’ own rare 1864 terracotta bust of the Countess by the French sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier- Belleuse (1824 – 1887). In extending this concept of feminine creative self-representation, the exhibition also includes examples of four important twentieth-century artists who shared the Countess's proclivity for self-examination, Cindy Sherman (b. 1954), Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), Gillian Wearing (b. 1963), and Nikki Lee (b. 1970). The Countess herself recorded obsessively from early beauty too much later in life, leaving an important body of work that continues to inspire artists today.

An exhibition catalogue authored by guest curator Robert Flynn Johnson will be available for purchase in the museum store.

Sponsored by: Kate and Michael Buttarazzi | Karen and Preston Dorsett | Rose M. Johnston | Anne and ike Keeney | Nancy and Steve Morrow | Irene Orgill | Gwen and Penn Owen | Irene and Fred Smith | Adele Wellford | Barbara and Lewis Williamson