Pierre-Louis Pierson | overpainted photographs of Castiglione

The collaboration between photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson and the Countess de Castiglione was without equal in the 19th century. The pair spent decades recording the Italian-born beauty’s obsessions, whims and life passages. Viewing the best-known products of their collaboration it is arguably the frankness, intimacy and compelling whiff of crazy to which we most readily respond. However loitering among the Met’s huge collection of Pierson-Castiglione images are intriguing works produced throughout the 1860s that are sometimes unrecognisable as photographs, so transformed are they by uncredited artists who painted over the prints (oh, and these images have provenance for days, being at various stages the property of Robert de Montesquiou and Ganna Walska). Castiglione died on this day in 1899.

Further reading
The countess in the afterlife
The countess in the cinema
Dress-down Friday: Robert de Montesquiou
A Casati family tree
Places: Place Vendôme
Dress-down Friday: Ganna Walska
Jacques-Émile Blanche | portraits


  1. Linda Hollander

    James: I love these photos and I’m so intrigued (isn’t everyone?) about the countess. I’ve never seen these at the Met and I’m wondering…are they on exhibit, or does one apply to see them? And, most important, as seems likely since you are in Berlin, are they available online? If so, can you provide a link? I am an online idiot, it never occurred to me that I could see them on my computer!

    Once again, you are the best!


    • Hi Linda,
      Oh, I was going to put in the link, so thanks for the reminder! I’ve now updated the post with a link to the Met. As far as I know they haven’t been on public display since the exhibition La Divine Comtesse a few years back.

  2. How long until a Comtesse paint-by-numbers kit is available?

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