6 x 4 in. (15.2 x 10.2 cm)
Overall 6 3/8 x 4 1/4 in. (16.2 x 10.8 cm)
From the Catalogue:
This photograph shows Virginia Oldoini, Countess de Castiglione (1837-1899), who, in concert with several Parisian photographers, created a remarkable body of self-portraiture that defied the conventions of her day. A colorful and imposing character, the Countess was Naploleon III’s mistress and a flamboyant fixture in the upper echelon of Parisian society. Fueled by a profound self-regard, the Countess had her photographic portrait made countless times. Pierre Apraxine writes that her collaboration with Pierson was especially fruitful, as the photographer apparently catered to her every demand: “In a reversal of the roles, the sitter would direct every aspect of the picture, from the angle of the shot to the lighting, using the photographer as a mere tool in her pursuit of self-absorbed, exhibitionist fantasies” (The Waking Dream, p. 339). The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses the largest collection of images of the Countess. Taken as a whole, the Countess’s images show a woman with a nuanced understanding of photography’s ability to manufacture and perpetuate fame.
—Courtesy of Phillips
Sotheby's, London, 10 May 2001, lot 357
About Pierre-Louis Pierson
French, 1822-1913, based in Paris, France