Lina Cavalieri – the soprano who sang with Caruso at the Met and inspired artists with her stunning looks – was known as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’; Gina Lollobrigida even played her in a biopic of the same name.
Piero Fornasetti’s obsession with the face of Cavalieri, his muse and ‘theme’, led to more than 350 variations on plates, glasses, paperweights and candlesticks.
Italian portrait painter Giovanni Boldini was also taken by her beauty and captured her on canvas and paper several times. An opportunity to acquire one of those drawings is coming up on 28 September when Bonhams New Bond Street, London will be auctioning a magnificent, signed, black chalk portrait, 12.5 x 19.5cm, in their sale of 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art. The estimate is €29,000 to €41,000, so take your chequebook.
Cavalieri died during a raid over Florence in 1944 after she and her husband were delayed in reaching the bomb shelter, having wanted to take with them some of her precious jewellry before leaving their house. The servants, having less valuables to collect, arrived in time and survived.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.