#02 the intuitive
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The image of woman is emancipated at the heart of Second Empire society, thanks to the invention of photography in 1839 by Daguerre. In Paris, a revolution in luxury is taking place that develops through new distinctive signifiers and identifying factors, such as perfume and clothing. In 1858, Charles-Frederick Worth invents haute couture and for the first time in the world signs dresses by affixing a label. The fashion arts are now competing with the decorative arts.
The fashion of this time makes immoderate use of lace in immense shawls and large pieces for the ruffles of crinoline skirts, contributing to a boom in the mechanical lace industry.
At the court of Napoleon III, Virginia Oldoini, the Countess of Castiglione (1837-1899), is described as the most beautiful woman of her century and each of her appearances is an event unto itself. With the help of photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson, for 40 years she directs more than 450 portraits in which she stages herself in an early form of photographic performance and autofiction. It is a mode of immortalizing at once her beauty, her moments of glory in the imperial court, her disgrace, and her freedom. She poses in a ball gown in which she shone the evening before, as a theater heroine or a courtesan. These portraits are also portraits of her dresses, on which she spends fortunes.