La Reine D'Étrurie, La Castiglione and Pierre-Louis Pierson, Poster

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This poster is a print of La Castiglione posing as La Reine d'Étrurie, the Queen of Etruria, in a photograph by Pierre-Louis Pierson, handpainted by an unknown artist, circa 1863-1867. Available in 16 x 20 and 8 x 10 inches.

This version is printed in USA on museum-quality, archival, acid-free matte paper — 10.3 mil, 192 grams per square inch — with an opacity of 94% and ISO brightness of 104%. 

La Reine d'Étrurie

Maria Luisa, Duchess of Lucca and Queen of Estruria, lived the kind of life that makes a person glad to be a commoner. She was born in 1782, the daughter of King Charles VI of Spain, and at age 13 she married her cousin Louis. They were happy enough for a while, even though he'd had epileptic fits ever since he'd hit his head on a marble table as a child, and also suffered from breathing problems. As his health worsened, he depended on Maria Luisa for "everything".

A few years later he traded his hereditary Duchy of Parma to become King of Etruria, carved out of the Duchy of Tuscany. Napoleon Bonaparte required the couple to come to Paris for ceremonies before taking possession of Etruria, although they really did not want to, and they spent most of their three-week visit being sick and having people judge them as shy and haughty and what-not.

Napoleon's valet liked her, though:

The Queen of Etruria was, in the opinion of the First Consul, more sagacious and prudent than her husband.. [she] dressed herself in the morning for the whole day, and walked in the gardens, her head adorned with flowers or a diadem, and wearing a dress, the train of which swept up the sand of the walk: often also carrying in her arms one of her children.., by night the toilet of her Majesty was somewhat disarranged. She was far from pretty, and her manner were not suited to her rank. But, which fully atoned for all of this, she was good-tempered, much loved by those in her service, and scrupulous in fulfilling the duties of wife and mother.

When Maria Luisa and Louis finally made it to their royal seat of Florence, they were unpopular there. They were replacing a well-loved Grand Duke, plus their subjects suspected them of being tools of the French. Also, they were sick. She had a miscarriage; he had increasing epileptic fits.

A couple of years later, when she was 20 years old, Louis died, and Maria Luisa served as Regent for four years; then Napoleon took the opportunity to annex her kingdom for France. She spent most of the rest of her life as an exile, fleeing from place to place, imprisoned in convents quite a bit. Finally, she was given the Duchy of Lucca, where she, now grown fat, reigned with full queenly rights for six years, unsuccessfully searching for a powerful husband, completely ignoring the constitution, until her death at age 41.

La Castiglione

Known as La Castiglione, Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, an Italian aristocrat, came to Paris in 1856, perhaps as a spy, and briefly became mistress to Napoleon III. Her husband then left her, already bankrupted by her extravagance.

She then spent decades and put all her money and more into a series of hundreds of photographs she orchestrated in order to re-create the “defining” moments of her life, and to showcase all the facets of her celebrated beauty. 

Working with famous Paris photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson, she “art-directed” the photos, even choosing the camera angle, and directing the painting that was often done to the photographs, sometimes doing it herself.

Many of the photos show her wearing the fancy gowns and costumes in which she dazzled Paris’s high society, and others show her enacting characters from plays or books, or from her imagination. She often sent photos of herself, perhaps posed as an innocent or a seductress, to her lovers and admirers.

When her beauty faded, she kept to herself in a black apartment without mirrors and only went out at night.


You can visit La Reine d'Etrurie's source pixels at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has hundreds of La Castiglione's photos.

Yvonne de Carlo starred in the 1955 film, La Castiglione (The Contessa's Secret).

Anomaly Panoply also offers a framed version of this poster.