25 Rare and Fascinating Portraits of Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione in the 1860s

The Italian Virginia Oldoini weds the Comte de Castiglione and is sent in 1856 in Paris to help defend the cause of Italy, in the likes of a spy, with the French emperor. Helped by her beauty, she therefore rapidly becomes the mistress of Napoleon III.

In 1861, separated from her husband and her lover, she definitely settles in Paris where she has several relationships with high figures from the politics, aristocracy and finances. After 1870 and the fall of the Empire, The Comtesse de Castiglione leads a reclusive life, excited by the mystery she arouses around her and refusing to let anyone observe her ageing figure, she, who once was the most beautiful woman of her times.

Terribly narcissistic, the countess had from 1856 asked the official photographer of the Empire, Pierre-Louis Pierson to take hundreds of photographs of her, all precisely and dramatically staged with a distinct costume, expression and aesthetic angle. She gave each image a name inspired by theatre or opera: at a time when fashion photography didn't yet exist, she imagined an incredible avant-garde concept. Below is a collection of 25 fascinating photographs of Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione from the 1860s.

























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