Altina Schinasi: A Creative Visionary and Philanthropic Soul

Altina Schinasi was an extraordinary woman whose life’s journey was marked by creativity, innovation, and a deep commitment to philanthropy. Her name may not be as well-known as some of her contemporaries, but her impact on the arts and her dedication to humanitarian causes left an indelible mark on the world.

Early Life and Cultural Heritage

Altina Schinasi was born in 1907 in New York City to a prominent Sephardic Jewish family. Her parents, Joseph and Helen Schinasi, were Egyptian immigrants and descendants of a tobacco magnate. Altina’s upbringing was steeped in art, culture, and an appreciation for diverse perspectives. The Schinasi family’s wealth allowed Altina to receive a private education, fostering her innate passion for art and her desire to create something meaningful.

A Creative Calling

As Altina matured, she found herself drawn to the world of art, specifically in the realm of sculpture and painting. Her creativity knew no bounds, and she continuously sought new ways to express herself artistically. In her early 20s, she enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City, where she honed her skills and expanded her artistic horizons.

It was during this period that Altina began experimenting with her most significant artistic contribution – the invention of the famous Harlequin glasses. Inspired by the Venetian masks worn during Carnival celebrations, she designed these unique glasses to be both functional and aesthetically striking. The Harlequin glasses featured a bold, distinct shape that immediately captured attention and became a fashion statement of the time. Celebrities and artists worldwide embraced Altina’s invention, further solidifying her reputation as a creative visionary.

The Harlequin Glasses Phenomenon

The Harlequin glasses went on to become an iconic symbol of the 20th century. Their popularity soared, and soon, Altina’s creations were adorning the faces of fashion icons, Hollywood stars, and cultural luminaries. The glasses transcended fashion trends, representing a timeless blend of art and functionality.

Beyond their stylish appeal, the Harlequin glasses showcased Altina’s keen sense of artistic expression. Her ability to meld bold design with practicality opened new avenues for eyewear fashion, paving the way for future generations of designers.

Diverse Artistic Pursuits

Altina Schinasi’s creative spirit was not confined to just one medium. Throughout her life, she expressed her artistic vision through various means, including painting and sculpture. Her artwork often focused on themes of human connection, emotion, and social issues.

Her paintings were characterized by vibrant colors, intricate details, and a touch of surrealism, inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of the human experience. Her sculptures, on the other hand, showcased her talent for capturing the essence of movement and emotion in still forms, breathing life into the stone and metal she worked with.

A Philanthropist’s Heart

Beyond her creative endeavors, Altina Schinasi held a deep conviction that her privilege came with a responsibility to help those less fortunate. She dedicated a significant portion of her life and resources to philanthropy, supporting various causes close to her heart.

Altina’s commitment to humanitarian efforts led her to become actively involved with organizations dedicated to the arts, education, and social welfare. She believed that art and culture had the power to transform lives and bring about positive change in society. As a result, she generously contributed to art institutions, funded scholarships for aspiring artists, and supported initiatives aimed at empowering marginalized communities.

A Legacy of Inspiration

Altina Schinasi’s life story serves as an inspiration to aspiring artists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists alike. Her creative vision, relentless pursuit of excellence, and compassionate spirit are a testament to the potential for individuals to make a lasting impact on the world.

Through her work, Altina demonstrated the importance of embracing one’s uniqueness, celebrating diversity, and using creativity as a force for good. The Harlequin glasses remain an enduring symbol of her ingenuity and artistic brilliance, reminding us of the power of art to transcend boundaries and connect people from all walks of life.


Altina Schinasi’s life was a tapestry of creativity, innovation, and philanthropy. From her groundbreaking invention of the Harlequin glasses to her dedication to humanitarian causes, she left an indelible mark on the world. Her legacy continues to inspire and motivate those who seek to use their talents and resources to make a positive impact on society.

As we reflect on Altina’s life and achievements, may we be encouraged to embrace our own unique gifts and find ways to contribute to the betterment of the world around us. Altina Schinasi’s story is a testament to the transformative power of creativity, empathy, and a deeply compassionate heart. Let us carry her legacy forward by nurturing our own creative visions and using them to uplift others, just as she did in her remarkable life.

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