Commissioned in 1750, the Palazzo Venier was planned as a testimony to the power and wealth of a great Venetian family, but the project was abandoned with only one storey complete. Empty and decaying, ‘il palazzo non finito’ was an eyesore for over a century until it came to be inhabited by the very different women whose stories are told in this gripping book.
Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim in turn used the Unfinished Palazzo as a stage on which to re-fashion her life, each making the building famous, or notorious, in her way. Their worlds of art and imagination boasted an amazing supporting cast, from D’Annunzio and Nijinsky, via Noël Coward, Winston Churchill and Cecil Beaton, to Yoko Ono.
The staggeringly wealthy Marchesa Luisa Casati made her home an aesthete’s fantasy and venue for parties as decadent as Renaissance court operas – spending small fortunes on her own costumes in her quest to become a ‘living work of art’ and muse to the artists of the late belle époque and early modernist eras. British socialite Doris Castlerosse (née Delevingne) made her mark in London and Venice during the hedonistic interwar years, hosting film stars and royalty at glittering parties. Jewish-American heiress Peggy Guggenheim turned the Palazzo into a model of modernist simplicity to house her exquisite collection of modern and surrealist art that today draws tourists and art-lovers from around the world.