Listening to Art

08.08: Augustus John, Marchesa Casati

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume eight, number eight: Marchesa Casati by Augustus John.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

In this issue and the next we return to the painting we first heard in volume three number two, one of two portraits of the outrageous Marchesa Casati that Augustus John painted in Paris in April 1919. I quote from Michael Holroyd’s biography Augustus John: A Biography (pp. 573–574):

“He painted like a lion,” sighed Casati. “Le taxi vous attend,” he writes to her from Paris. “Venez!” They flung themselves toward each other, but the romance, a brilliantly casual performance, seemed sadly underrehearsed. Sex was not the real attraction between them. Casati took other people’s attention for granted, using it as an orchestration to her life, a perpetual chorus singing invisibly while she stood on stage alone. Otherwise love-affairs threatened to interfere with her passionate self-love. For she was intensely narcissistic, rather under-sexed and without actual intelligence. As an exhibitionist she needed partners only for her audience. Yet somehow John felt a kinship with her. Like him, she was outrageously shy, concocting, in place of real life, a pantomime.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 68.6 cm wide by 96.5 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Marchesa Casati by Augustus John, recorded at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, on 12 July 2020.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Marchesa Casati by Augustus John. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Art Gallery of Ontario. “The Marchesa Casati.” Art Gallery of Ontario.

Denton, William. “Augustus John, Marchesa Casati.” Listening to Art 03, no. 02 (01 June 2018).

Holroyd, Michael. Augustus John: A Biography. Rev ed. Harmondsworth UK: Penguin, 1976.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Augustus John,”

⸻, s.v. “Luisa Casati,”

⸻, s.v. “Marchesa Casati (painting)”