I just read The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice by Judith Mackrell, dance critic for The Guardian. It’s about the Marchesa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim, each of whom lived for a while in the same Venetian palazzo; the first two rented but Guggenheim bought it and it is now the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
The three women all had remarkable lives, with a lot of money and affairs, but also more than the usual share of sadness. There’s a huge range of other people in the books, including many artists (some who painted Casati, and some who were friends with or collected by Guggenheim). It’s well written and well researched, and if you’re interested in wild lives or this period or those circles of people (or maybe like me you hope to visit Venice one day) then I highly recommend it.
I noticed that in my library’s catalogue entry for the book it was given a great Library of Congress Subject Heading: Homes and haunts.
I went on to read Daphne du Maurier’s Not After Midnight (recently republished by Penguin as Don’t Look Now), because the first story, “Don’t Look Now,” is set in Venice. (It’s the basis for the movie, which I haven’t seen.) This is a fine short story collection, and also well worth a look.
By the way, if you want to listen to two portraits of the Marchesa Casati, Listening to Art has Augustus John, Marchesa Casati (the most famous one of her) and Giovanni Boldini, Ritratto della Marchesa Casati con Piume di Pavone.