Luisa Casati StampaFor a number of years in the 1920’s Villa San Michele was rented by the eccentric marquise Luisa Casati Stampa. By then, because of his eye health problems, Axel Munthe had moved to Torre di Materita in a more shaded part of Anacapri.
The richest woman in Europe of her time, Luisa Casati Stampa (1881–1957) was as famous as she was infamous for her wildly extravagant lifestyle. She loved art and literature and in her youth was the muse and mistress of the celebrated writer Gabriele D’Annunzio. She frequented the most illustrious artists and commissioned portraits from them, amongst others Giovanni Boldini and Augustus John. Man Ray’s photographs of her show a dark lady with a 20’s bob and black make-up framing her legendary large green eyes.
Luisa Casati Stampa was mostly associated with Venice and Paris, where she gave opulent banquets in her palaces, dressed in spectacular jewel-encrusted creations. Cartier’s famous panther is said to have been inspired by her. In Venice the marchesa could be seen walking the narrow streets at night naked under her fur coat. Servants with torchlights would illuminate this living work of art.
Her extravagant lifestyle continued at Villa San Michele. Among other items, she brought with her two cheetahs, a pair of greyhouds, two gilded gazelles and an owl to liven up the gardens of the villa and she refurnished the rooms entirely to her own taste. The marquise was drawn to the more decadent residents of Capri and, for instance, took part in Jaques d’Adelswärd Fersen’s orgiastic parties at Villa Lysis.
History relates that Axel Munthe soon tired of his eccentric tenant, but it took him a long time to get rid of her. When she finally left he cleared the villa of every trace of her occupancy apart from her motto, which to this day can be read on the wall of one of the rooms:
Oser Vouloir Savoir Se Taire (Dare Want Know Stay Silent)
Through constantly surpassing herself in lavish living Luisa Casati Stampa frittered away the whole of her fortune. She died in poverty in London in 1957.