The mysterious selfie queen of Paris high society

When she first visited the photography studio of Mayer & Pierson in 1856, Virginia Oldoini had already become notorious in Paris society. Married at 17 to Italian Count Francesco Verasis di Castiglione, she had been dispatched to Paris to convince Napoleon III to support Italian unification — instead, she promptly became his mistress.

Their dalliance was brief but helped establish her reputation as a…

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