Reviews | August 05, 2019

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice, Judith Mackrell, Thames & Hudson, 2017, 408 pp., $34.95. Harcover

The Riviera Set: Glitz, Glamour, and the Hidden World of High Society, Mary S. Lovell, Pegasus Books, 2017, 434 pp., $27.95. Hardcover

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, Denise Kiernan, Touchstone, 2017, 388 pp., $28. Hardcover

A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York, Greg King, Wiley, 2009, 508 pp., $35. Hardcover.

For Friedrich Nietzsche, greatness was achieved through the full, unflinching realization of self by turning life into a work of art. Separated by time and place, six unique women—Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse, Peggy Guggenheim, Maxine Elliot, Edith Vanderbilt, and Caroline Astor—all embody these notions of self-realization and life as art. Despite social conventions meant to dictate the courses of their lives, these independent women reinvented themselves through creativity and tenacity by fashioning worlds in which they could find full expression. The houses they bought or built and the milieux that grew up around them supported their ventures in art, commerce, and activism, ventures that have fascinating stories of their own. The histories of these houses are as richly textured and varied as the lives of their most famous occupants.

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