Her repeated face is the muse behind one of the most recognisable prints in interior design; Piero Fornasetti’s eccentric plate series ‘Tema e Variazioni’, which over the years became a decorator’s go-to wallpaper or accessory for achieving a quirky and contemporary facelift. But while her face would seem really familiar and well-known to most, the identity of Lina Cavalieri has been separated from her image and forgotten over time to become one of history’s most overlooked wallflowers.
And you would think we would have remembered someone who was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, one of the defining icons of the Belle Époque era.
Her story is pretty impressive too. Lina was orphaned at 15, and at the first opportunity, she ran away from the strict Roman Catholic of her orphanage nuns to join a travelling theatre troupe. She landed in Paris where she found a job singing at a café much like the one where Edith Piaf was discovered. From there, her striking looks got her through the doors of the Folies Bergère where she began performing and almost overnight, she had gone from the runaway orphan to the star of Paris vaudeville.