Virginia Oldoïni, Countess of Castiglione (1837 – 1899), better known as La Castiglione, was an Italian aristocrat who achieved notoriety as a mistress of Emperor Napoleon III of France. She was also a significant figure in the early history of photography.
In 1856 she began sitting for Mayer and Pierson, photographers favored by the imperial court. Over the next four decades she directed Pierre-Louis Pierson to help her create 700 different photographs in which she re-created the signature moments of her life for the camera. She spent a large part of her personal fortune and even went into debt to execute this project. Most of the photographs depict the Countess in her theatrical outfits, such as the Queen of Hearts dress. A number of photographs depict her in poses risqué for the era — notably, images that expose her bare legs and feet. In these photos, her head is cropped out.
Robert de Montesquiou, a Symbolist poet, dandy, and avid art collector, was fascinated by the Countess di Castiglione. He spent thirteen years writing a biography, La Divine Comtesse, which appeared in 1913. After her death, he collected 433 of her photographs, all of which entered the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Read more at Wikipedia