06 December 2013

Lyda Borelli

Today, it's Postcard Friendship Friday on the net. A weekly event in which postcard blogs present themselves. Start at Beth's blog with the great title The Best Hearts Are Crunchy, and enjoy some rare vintage postcards that are preserved on the net by bloggers like me.

For this Postcard Friendship Friday, I have chosen postcards of the first Italian film diva: Lyda Borelli (1887-1959). La Borelli was already an acclaimed stage actress before she became a star of the Italian silent cinema. The fascinating diva caused a craze among female fans, which was called 'Borellismo'.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard by Neg. Trevisani, Bologna, no. 459.

Lyda Borelli
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 9439.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard by N. Riccardi, Milano, Serie 7458 - F. Lyda Borelli written as Lidia Borelli. Ca. 1910.

Lyda Borelli in Marcia nuziale
Italian postcard, Ufficio Censura Torino, 9-10-1915, no. 6184. Photo: Lyda Borelli in the Italian silent film Marcia nuziale (Carmine Gallone, 1915), one of the few lost films of her career.


Lyda Borelli was the daughter of the stage actor Napoleone Borelli, and the sister of actress Alda Borelli.

Lyda made her stage debut in 1902 with the Pasta-Reiter company. She switched to the company of Virgina Talli, and at the age of 18 she already played leads, as in Gabriele d'Annunzio's La figlia di Jorio (1904).

In 1909 she started her own company with Ruggero Ruggeri, performing both in light comedies and in such serious dramas as Salome by Oscar Wilde, which would be her major stage play.

In 1909 Ruggeri and Borelli did a tour through Latin-America visiting a.o. Argentine, Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1914 she would return to Latin America for another tour.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard. Photo: Varischi & Artico, Milano.

Lyda Borelli in Il dramma di una notte
Spanish chocolate card by Imperial. Photo: publicity still of Lyda Borelli in Il dramma di una note/The Drama of a Night (Mario Caserini, 1918).

Lyda Borelli in Madame Tallien
Italian postcard by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, no. 3276. Photo: Film Cines. Lyda Borelli in the silent film Madame Tallien (Mario Caserini, Enrico Guazzoni, 1916) based on the play by Victorien Sardou. The caption goes: "Desfieux, Tallien's Head of Police, runs to Therese's house, discovers the hideout of Jean Guery and has all arrested".

Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli in Malombra
Italian postcard. Photo: Lyda Borelli and Amleto Novelli in the silent film Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1917).

Lyda Borelli in Rapsodia satanica
Spanish postcard. Photo: dressed as Salome, Alba d'Oltrevita (Lyda Borelli) repents the suicide of Sergio because of her in Rapsodia satanica (Nino Oxilia, 1915-1917).

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard by A.G.F. Photo: Cine.

Worldwide Success

In 1913 the film Ma l'amor mio non muore/Love Everlasting (Mario Caserini, 1913) was designed to launch Lydia Borelli in the cinema.

The film tells the story of a singer who falls tragically in love with a prince, played by Mario Bonnard. Lyda was like a decadent version of the Pre-Raphaelite beauty - thin, with wavy blond hair and strange but picturesque poses.

The worldwide success of the film resulted in thirteen more films. She portrayed characters who were doomed and otherworldly, often bordering on the supernatural.

A compelling film is her Rapsodia Satanica (Nino Oxilia, 1915) that tells the tale of an old woman who makes a pact with the Devil for eternal youth.

To her best films belong also Fior di male/Flower of Evil (1915), and Malombra (1917), both directed by Carmine Gallone.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 477. Photo: Attilio Badodi. Signed: Lyda Borelli. Attilio Badodi (1880-1967), born in Reggio Emilia, became a famous Milanese portrait photographer of the Belle Epoque. In 1922 he participated in the First International Exhibition on Photography in Turin and he was a reporter for Illustrazione Italiana, but he is best remembered for his portraits.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 319. Photo: Attilio Badodi, Milano (Milan).

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 256. Photo: Attilio Badodi, Milano (Milan).

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 418. Photo: Attilio Badodi, Milano (Milan).

Ecstatic and Aristocratic Performance

Lyda Borelli was the first diva of the Italian cinema and one of the first European film stars, together with Asta Nielsen.

Her ecstatic and aristocratic performance, mixing grand gesture with delicate small details, her elegant attire and her long blond hair caused a craze. In the 1910's girls dyed their hair, went on diets and strove to imitate her twisted postures. This phenomenon was described in Italy as Borellismo.

In 1918 Lyda Borelli's stage and film career ended suddenly, when she married the Venetian count and businessman Vittorio Cini.

Their son Giorgio Cini Jr. would die in a plane crash while going to meet his fiancee, the actress Merle Oberon.

More recently Lyda Borelli was one of the divas featured in the compilation film Diva Dolorosa (Peter Delpeut, 1999). An extended sequence from Fior de Male appears in Peter Delpeut's earlier film Lyrisch Nitraat/Lyrical Nitrate (Peter Delpeut, 1991).

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard by R. Rota & Co., Milano. Photo: cav. G. Artico, Milano.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 623. Photo Sciutto. Could have been for the stage play La figlia di Jorio by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard. Photo: Varischi & Artico, Milano.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 323. Photo: Fontana.

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 118. Photo Bettini, Roma

Lyda Borelli
Italian postcard, no. 894, Uff. Rev. Stampa, 25-5-1917. Lyda Borelli painted by Tito Corbella.

Lyda Borelli Calderara caricature
Italian postcard. Lyda Borelli, caricature by C. Calderara. Looking at the outfit and the headgear, the drawing seems to refer to Borelli's first film Ma l'amor mio non muore/ Love Everlasting (1913).

Lyda Borelli
Statue of Lyda Borelli in the Casa di Riposo 'Lyda Borelli', Bologna, Italy. Photo: Jan.

Casa di riposo Lyda Borelli2
Casa di Riposo 'Lyda Borelli', Bologna, Italy. Photo: Jan.

Sources: Biblioteca e Raccolta Teatrale del Burcardo, Greta De Groat (Unsung Divas), and IMDb.


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Beth Niquette said...

Oh, Paul! These are incredible! What an interesting woman she was. I often use old photos such as these as reference for my artwork.

There's something so elegant and beautiful about the women of that era.

Have a lovely day, and thank you for joining us for Postcard Friendship Friday!

Snap said...

Always fun to visit (its been awhile!). She was a lovely woman -- had a beautiful smile. Happy PFF