Altina Schinasi: The Woman Behind the Revolutionary Harlequin Glasses

Harlequin Glasses


In the world of art and design, certain individuals leave an indelible mark that transcends time. One such person is Altina Schinasi, an exceptional artist, inventor, and visionary who revolutionized the world of eyewear with her iconic Harlequin glasses. This article delves into the life and accomplishments of Altina Schinasi, exploring her artistic journey, the creation of the iconic glasses, and her lasting legacy.

1. Early Life and Artistic Roots

Altina Schinasi was born in 1907 in New York City to a family deeply involved in the arts. Her father was an accomplished sculptor, and her mother was a talented painter. Growing up amidst such creativity, Altina’s artistic inclinations began to bloom from a young age. She attended the Art Students League of New York and developed a profound passion for various art forms, including painting, sculpture, and filmmaking.

2. A Pioneering Filmmaker

In her early career, Altina ventured into filmmaking, becoming one of the few female directors of her time. Her films, characterized by their poetic and surreal themes, received critical acclaim and showcased her avant-garde vision. Altina’s films explored the complexities of human emotions and often blurred the lines between reality and dreams.

3. The Birth of Harlequin Glasses

While Altina Schinasi’s contributions to the world of art were noteworthy, she achieved everlasting fame with her innovative creation – the Harlequin glasses. In 1939, she designed these unique, upswept eyeglasses that featured a distinctive harlequin pattern on the frames. The glasses quickly became a fashion sensation, adorning the faces of celebrities, artists, and intellectuals.

4. Impact on Fashion and Pop Culture

The Harlequin glasses not only changed eyewear fashion but also became a symbol of intellectualism and artistic flair. Altina Schinasi’s creation gained popularity in the bohemian circles of the 1940s and 1950s and found its way into Hollywood movies. The glasses were sported by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly, further solidifying their status as a fashion statement.

5. The Journey Beyond Harlequin Glasses

Altina’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond the world of eyewear. She continued to innovate and explore various art forms. Her sculptures, paintings, and tapestries adorned galleries and exhibitions across the globe. Altina’s multifaceted talent and relentless pursuit of artistic excellence set her apart as an exceptional artist.

6. Legacy and Recognition

Altina Schinasi’s legacy remains strong even after her passing. Her Harlequin glasses continue to inspire contemporary designers, and vintage pairs have become collector’s items. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York recognized her work by adding the Harlequin glasses to their collection, solidifying their artistic and cultural significance.

7. Rediscovery and Revival

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Altina Schinasi’s life and work. Biographers, art historians, and fashion enthusiasts have celebrated her contributions, shedding light on the woman behind the iconic glasses. The revival of her art and her films has allowed a new generation to appreciate her artistic vision.

8. The Timeless Appeal of Harlequin Glasses

Altina Schinasi’s Harlequin glasses have stood the test of time. Their unique design and artistic flair continue to captivate fashion enthusiasts and collectors alike. Whether it’s the vintage pairs from the mid-20th century or modern iterations inspired by her work, the Harlequin glasses remain a symbol of creativity and individuality.


Altina Schinasi was an extraordinary artist and inventor whose Harlequin glasses became an enduring emblem of artistic expression and style. Her journey from a talented filmmaker to a pioneering eyewear designer showcases her unyielding passion for creativity. Altina’s artistic vision continues to influence the worlds of fashion, art, and culture, ensuring that her legacy remains etched in history.


  1. Who was Altina Schinasi? Altina Schinasi was an American artist, filmmaker, and inventor best known for her iconic Harlequin glasses.
  2. What are Harlequin glasses? Harlequin glasses are unique, upswept eyeglasses featuring a distinctive harlequin pattern on the frames, designed by Altina Schinasi.
  3. What impact did Harlequin glasses have on fashion? Harlequin glasses became a fashion sensation, adorning the faces of celebrities and intellectuals, and leaving a lasting impact on eyewear fashion.
  4. Which celebrities wore Harlequin glasses? Celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly were known for wearing Harlequin glasses.
  5. What is Altina Schinasi’s legacy? Altina Schinasi’s legacy includes her innovative contributions to eyewear fashion and her lasting influence on art and culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *