Bshe, intelligent, free and terribly modern. If she had lived today, the Countess of Castiglione, who cultivated the cult of her image, would be an influencer. Benedetta Craveri, literary critic, writer and essayist, is certain. To Virginia Verasis di Castiglione dedicated «La Contessa», published for Adelphi and just released also in French edition.
“She was the first diva, the first example of a woman as famous as she is famous. Even after her relationship with Napoleon III she lived like a star, moving around Europe as a touring artist ».
A character whose charm is testified by the hundreds of photographs that she had taken in the course of her life and which contributed to building her myth, which inspired artists such as Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramović and which survives in the present also thanks to the exhibitions that have been dedicated to her over the years, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris and in Turin.
Craveri, who dedicated the book to his brother Piero in memory of his Piedmontese grandparents, after having tracked down a huge amount of unpublished letters in the Italian and French archives, he returns the word to Virginia in the book, intertwining, as we read in the introduction, “her voice with that of those who had intimately known her”.
“It is the first time that the Countess has made her voice heard”, observes the writer, who has brought to light surprising aspects of a woman “Who knew how to use his charm, but also his political intelligence, his audacity, his will to dominate, his extraordinary ability as a comedian, and also a good dose of cynicism, to reach an unimaginable goal at the time: to have freely of his own existence “.
Virginia Oldoini, married at the age of 17 to Francesco Verasis Asinari, count of Costigliole d’Asti and Castiglione Tinella, went down in history for the role it played during the nineteenth century, when it was used as a political bait by his cousin Cavour and King Vittorio Emanuele II, who put it aside once the Francosabuda alliance was stipulated, which then resulted in the second war of independence.
“When she went to Paris with her husband, carrying out the role they had assigned her with great intelligence – recalls Craveri -, Virginia was just 18 years old. When she returned to Turin because she was no longer needed, she found hostility, but nevertheless remained firmly intent on defending her freedom. It was never subordinate to anyone. And what is modern about her is precisely her ferocious individualism, her need to be free ».
Against the backdrop of her existence, her husband Francesco Verasis Asinari. When she met him, she fell in love with the idolatry he had for her, but when she found herself trapped in a programmed life, the bond was compromised. “That of him, who was a decent person but a prisoner of his idea of morality – says Craveri -, is a heartbreaking figure. She humiliated him with her indifference and he indulged in frightening scenes, putting himself in the wrong. When Virginia became the lover of Napoleon III, she was the last to understand him and, in this deadly situation, she did the only thing possible, that is, pretend nothing happened ».
One wonders if in the whirlwind of men who wooed her or whom she seduced, she truly loved someone: «He had an unscrupulous vision of love, he considered it a fever that passes quickly. She was a narcissist, but in her life she had a deep bond with Prince Joseph Poniatowski, an old family friend who became a senator of the Empire, who had known her as a child and found her in Paris. I read the letters she wrote to him and they impressed me. The Countess, who usually used French, wrote to him in the Tuscan of her childhood. Whether they were two kindred souls or two adventurers, it is not known. In returning the floor to the Countess, I leave it to the reader to formulate her own idea ».
Virginia is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, but her memory is still alive both in Costigliole, where she was the protagonist in the castle, which in Castiglione Tinella, which recalls his figure in the annual “Virginia Day”. –