Everything can be exhibited: trinkets from the Second French Empire, a collection of photographs, a boudoir from beyond the grave, a heroine famous for her beauty, her extravagance and her pitiful end. Everything can be exposed: a woman for another woman… , the fear of one’s own body, a way of entering a scene, the thrill of seduction, abandonment, the reassurance of objects, a ruin. Over the course of four decades, the Countess Virginia Oldoini returned to the same Paris studio to be photographed, posing in different tableaux to mark the moments of her life, real and imagined. A fascination with ‘La Castiglione’ led Nathalie Leger to weave together this imaginative proto-biography. Mysterious yet over-exposed, adored and despised for her beauty in equal measure, Castiglione was a flamboyant aristocrat, mistress of Napoleon III and a rumoured spy. Examining the myths around icons past and present, Leger meditates on the half-truths of portrait photography, reframing her own family history in the process.
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