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The Unfinished Palazzo

Life, Love and Art in Venice

Judith Mackrell


'The best gallimaufry of gossip and scandal I have read in years' Lynn Barber, Sunday Times


Abandoned unfinished and left to rot on Venice’s Grand Canal, ‘il palazzo non finito’ was once an unloved guest among the aristocrats of Venetian architecture. Yet in the 20th century it played host to three passionate and unconventional women who would take the city by storm. The staggeringly wealthy Marchesa Luisa Casati made her new home a belle epoque aesthete’s fantasy and herself a living work of art; notorious British socialite Doris Castlerosse (née Delevingne) welcomed film stars and royalty to glittering parties between the wars; and American heiress Peggy Guggenheim amassed an exquisite collection of modern art, which today draws visitors from around the world.

Each in turn used the Unfinished Palazzo as a stage on which to re-fashion her life, with a dazzling supporting cast ranging from D’Annunzio and Nijinsky, through Noël Coward, Winston Churchill and Cecil Beaton, to Yoko Ono. Individually sensational and collectively remarkable, these stories of modern Venice tell us much about the ways women chose to live in the 20th century.

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'Rip-roaringly entertaining stories of three fascinating women'
The Times

'Well researched, gloriously gossipy, a delightful, colourful story of reinvention and rebellion'

'Very clever and entertaining … Mackrell recounts the lives of three wildly ambitious yet vulnerable women with page-turning pace and intelligence'

'I gorged on the decadence and drama'
Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph

'Stylish, sparky and packed with spicy anecdotes'
Miranda Seymour, Literary Review


'A dazzling read'
The Lady

Lex News, France

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 13.0 cm

Extent: 408 pp

Illustrations: 114

Publication date: 5 July 2018

ISBN: 9780500294437

About the Author

Judith Mackrell is the Guardian’s dance critic and a successful author of biographical non-fiction titles, including Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes,which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, and Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation, which combines the biographies of six women whose lives together encapsulated the history of the flapper era.

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