I’m sure you have seen her face before, but not knowing this woman, and what is her story. Is she just a pretty face? Or has she got a darker life behind her angelic face. As we go back in time lets start with the creator.
Fornasetti (10 November 1913 – 9 October 1988) was an Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver.
He lived most of his life in Milan, attending the Brera Art Academy from 1930-32 when he was expelled for insubordination. During World War II, he went into exile in Switzerland from 1943-46. He created more than 11,000 items, many featuring the face of a woman, operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. Fornasetti found her face in a 19th-century magazine. “What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” asks Italian designer, Piero Fornasetti of himself. “I don’t know,” he admits, “I began to make them and I never stopped.” The “Tema e Variazioni” (theme and variation) plate series based on Cavalieri’s face numbered more than 350.
Other common features in his work include heavy use of black and white, the sun and time. His style is reminiscent of Greek and Roman architecture, by which he was heavily influenced.
Today it is most common to see Fornasetti’s style in fashion and room accessories such as scarves, ties, lamps, furniture, china plates and tables and his son, Barnaba Fornasetti, continues to design in his father’s name.
Lina Cavalieri (25 December 1874 – 7 February 1944) was an Italian operatic soprano known for her great beauty. Cavalieri, born in Viterbo, Latium, Italy, she lost her parents at the age of fifteen and became a ward of the state, sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. The vivacious young girl was extremely unhappy under the strict raising of the nuns, and at the first opportunity she ran away with a touring theatrical group. Blessed with a good singing voice, a young Cavalieri made her way to Paris, France, where her stunning good looks opened doors and she obtained work as a singer at one of the city’s café-concerts. From there she performed at a variety of music halls and other such venues around Europe while still working to develop her voice for the opera. A soprano, Cavalieri took voice lessons and made her opera debut in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1900, the same year she married her first husband, the Russian Prince Bariatinsky. Eventually she followed in the footsteps of Hariclea Darclée as one of the first stars of Puccini’s Tosca. In 1904 she sang at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo then in 1905, at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso in the Umberto Giordano opera, Fedora. From there, she and Caruso took the show to New York City, debuting with it at the Metropolitan Opera on 5 December 1906.
During her career, Cavalieri sang with other opera greats such as the Italian baritone Titta Ruffo and the French tenor Lucien Muratore, whom she married in 1913. After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a cosmetic salon in Paris. In 1914, on the eve of her fortieth birthday — her beauty still spectacular — she wrote an advice column on make-up for women in Femina magazine and published a book, My Secrets of Beauty. In 1915, she returned to her native Italy to make motion pictures. When that country became involved in World War I, she went to the United States where she made four more silent films. The last three of her films were the product of her friend, the Belgian film director Edward José.
Eventually Paolo d’Arvanni, Cavalieri returned to live with her husband in Italy. Well into her sixties when World War II broke out, she nevertheless worked as a volunteer nurse. Cavalieri was killed in 1944 during an Allied bombing raid that destroyed her home in the outskirts of Florence.
La Cavalieri’s discography is slim. In 1910, for Columbia, she recorded arias from Faust, Carmen, Mefistofele, La bohème, Manon Lescaut and Tosca, as well as the song, “Maria, Marì! (Ah! Marì! Ah! Marì!).” In 1917, for Pathé, the soprano recorded “Le rêve passé,” with Muratore.
She was painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini (acquired by Maurice Rothschild) and by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947). The latter is now the property of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the gift of Nicholas Meredith Turner in memory of his wife the soprano Jessica Dragonette. Hers is the face that appears repeatedly, obsessively in Piero Fornasetti’s designs. Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida portrayed Cavalieri in the film The World’s Most Beautiful Woman. In 2004, a book was published authored by Paul Fryer and Olga Usova titled Lina Cavalieri -The Life of Opera’s Greatest Beauty, 1874–1944.