CAVALIERI, Lina


Description:
The New York Sun, January 18, 1908 described the picture in its review as follows: ‘Cavalieri, looking rather demure in the company of churchmen, is sitting sidewise, the face full, gazing straight at you. Sketchy draperies flout about her bare shoulders. A very decorative effect…’ Oil on canvas, 29.3/16” x 24.3/16 (74.2 x 61.5 cms). An oval within a rectangular black lacquer frame 37” x 33.1/2”.

Location:
The Metropolitan Opera House, New York City.

Provenance:
The artist’s studio sale, Plaza Art Galleries, 9-11, East 59th Street, New York, November 24 & 25, 1947, Sale No. 2809, Lot 164 – ‘Portrait of Lina Cavalieri as Diana’ (Fetched $20.00 – marked copy in Frick Art Reference Library); Jessica Dragonette (purchase?); her husband Nicholas M. Turner. Donated by Nicholas M. Turner in memory of his wife Jessica Dragonette, 1987.

Exhibitions:
LOTUS CLUB, New York, on January 4, 1908.
M. KNOEDLER & CO., 355, Fifth Avenue, New York, January 13 – 23, 1908, No.12 (late arrival at close of Lotos Club show and so not listed on handlist).
BENDANN’S ART STORE, Baltimore, January 27 – 31, 1908.
THE CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART, Washington D.C., February 4 – 19, 1908, No.6.
McCLEES GALLERIES, 1411, Walnut Street, Philadelphia, February 1908.

Bibliography:
New York Herald, January 4, 1908
American Art News, Vol. 6, No. 13, January 11, 1908, New York, p. 6
The World Magazine, January 12, 1908 (reproduced)
New York Sun, January 18, 1908
New York Evening Mail, January 18, 1908
The Sun, Baltimore, Tuesday morning, January 28, 1908
The Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, Wednesday, February 26, 1908

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Notes

Lina Cavalieri was born in Viterbo on December 25, 1874 of humble origins, and made a name for herself as a café singer all over Europe. She studied singing in Milan and made her début in Naples in 1900 as Mimi in La Bohème. She first appeared at the New York Metropolitan Opera House in 1906, and worked there until 1910. Much admired by aristocracy and royalty, and boasting £500,000 in jewels including gifts from the Tsar of Russia and Prince of Monaco. She had four husbands, including the French tenor Lucien Muratore. She was best in seductive roles by reason of her exceptional grace and beauty. In the United States she was known as the ‘kissing prima-donna.’

Bibliography: Lina Cavalieri, Le mie verità, Rome, 1936.

American Art News, Vol. 6, No. 13, January 11, 1908 described the picture as having ‘…truthfulness to likeness and charm in A. Muller-Ury’s portrait of Mlle Cavalieri.’ The New York Evening Mail, January 18, 1908, described it as ‘dazzling’. The artist may have painted two portraits of Cavalieri, one of which he gave to her, and the other which he kept for exhibition.  Nonetheless, he repainted the background of this portrait about 1943 (another example of this type of late alteration is the portrait of Lord Strathcona formerly also in Jessica Dragonette’s collection and now in the collection of the Hudson’s Bay Company). 

The diva died in a bombing raid on Fiesole, Italy, on February 7, 1944, which apparently destroyed all her possessions, so this may be the only oil picture of her by him in existence.


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