Eleonora (1858-1924). Actress. Born in Vigevano, she came from a family of artists. She is still a mythic figure in the collective imagination. She was unconventional, ever since her début, an anti-diva in her acting style, which aimed at “giving voice to the breath and the contradictions of sentiment.” Not a vain person, and “indifferent,” as Ugo Ojetti would write toward the end of the 1800s, “to other people’s judgments,” during the day Duse wore rather shabby clothing, characterized by a sort of “pathetic slovenliness typical of the lagoon.” But looking at her pictures, one’s opinion becomes less severe. Those rare photos of the early 1880s reveal a sober and easy elegance which would become more complicated over the following two decades. Proof of this can be found in the exceptional and numerous original photographs in the Duse archives at the Foundation Giorgio Cini on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. These were taken by the greatest wizards of the camera, including Giuseppe Primoli, Giovanni Battista Sciutto, Mario Nunes Vais, Aimé Dupont, Paul Audouard, and Arnold Genthe. Foremost among all the pictures is the splendid portrait of “The Divine Duse” with an ermine stole, taken in New York in 1903 by Edward Steichen who, along with Baron Gayne de Mayer, is considered the inventor of fashion photography. As an artist, Duse was a refined woman, although she could present herself to the public without the slightest trace of make-up and, at a certain age, would show herself with her “white hair, in strident contrast with the character she was playing.” She was very attentive to the reconstruction of historical costumes; for contemporary characters, she would choose modern clothes. She wasn’t afraid of violet (her surviving clothes are proof of this), she didn’t mind spending, and had clear ideas about what she wanted. In 1904, for example, she paid 2,000 liras, the equivalent of about €7,000 today, to buy a special cloak to be worn in Monna Vanna by Maurice Maeterlinck. This is what she wrote to Caramba, whose real name was Luigi Scapelli (1865-1936), a journalist, caricaturist, set and costume designer, and director: “I would like, for Monna Vanna, a velvet cloak, in blue… But not precisely blue or… a blue that I know but that I can’t explain. Try to understand me, you who are a great costume designer, a true artist. What I would like to have is a blue like the color of the lake in Pallanza (oh, do you remember?) at four in the afternoon!” Among the famous names of fashion in whom she placed her trust were Paul Poiret and, above all, Mariano Fortuny, whose evocative creations she seemed to favor, to judge from the number of pieces that her niece, Eleonora Bullough (who became a nun with the name Sister Mary of St. Mark), donated to the Cini Foundation, as well as to Palazzo Pitti in Florence and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Fortuny, a Spanish-Venetian painter, set designer and collector, who became interested in fabrics and fashion in 1907, dedicated the Eleonora model to her. It was made of two smooth and flat panels of printed velvet with deeply pleated satin inlays, of the “Delphi” type. Among the great dressmakers who had the honor to dress Duse, we should remember Bellom S., of Turin and Florence, and Magugliani, of Florence, both suppliers to the Royal House of Savoy, and Redfern, of Paris. But her favorite atelier was the maison created in 1857 by Charles Frederick Worth on Rue de la Paix in Paris. In 1921, on the occasion of her return to the theatre, after 12 years of absence, she called upon Jean Philippe, who was known as Luka and was the son of the founder, for help. In the Sister Mary of St. Mark fund, which is part of the Cini Foundation, there is a letter from Luka, dated 6 April 1923, in which he reassured “the great She” (as he would call her), about her debt to him: “You will pay me when you become rich, and if things do not go well and you do not become rich, then I can wait until Judgment Day.”