Today: Jul 18, 2024

Altina Schinasi: The Renaissance Woman of the 20th Century

Altina Schinasi
Altina Schinasi
3 months ago

In a world where creativity often knows bounds confined by societal norms, Altina Schinasi Miranda (1899–1999) shattered expectations, leaving an indelible mark on art, design, and social activism. A visionary ahead of her time, Schinasi’s contributions spanned from revolutionizing eyewear design with the invention of the Harlequin glasses to her impactful work in film and relentless advocacy for human rights. This blog post celebrates the life and legacy of Altina Schinasi, exploring her multifaceted career and the enduring influence of her work.

Altina Schinasi Early Life and Education:

Born into a prosperous family as the daughter of a Turkish immigrant and tobacco magnate, Altina Schinasi grew up in a world of privilege that could easily have led her down a path of leisure and socialites. However, her insatiable curiosity and creative spirit propelled her toward a less traveled road. Schinasi pursued art at a time when women’s roles were severely limited, studying at the prestigious Art Students League in New York and later in Paris, the epicenter of the avant-garde movement.

Revolutionizing Eyewear Design:

In the 1930s, Schinasi noticed a glaring gap in the fashion and functionality of eyewear for women. The options available were largely utilitarian and lacked any sense of style or femininity. This observation led her to design the Harlequin, or cat-eye glasses, which introduced a bold new aesthetic to women’s eyewear. The design was not only fashionable but also offered an improved field of vision, showcasing Schinasi’s ability to merge form with function. Her invention would go on to become an iconic symbol of women’s empowerment and self-expression, immortalized by Hollywood’s golden era stars and fashionistas worldwide.

A Pioneering Filmmaker:

Altina Schinasi’s creativity was not confined to the visual arts; she was also a pioneering filmmaker. Her documentary, “George Grosz’s Interregnum,” critically examined the rise of fascism in Germany between World War I and World War II through the eyes of the German artist George Grosz. The film was acclaimed for its innovative use of art to comment on political and social issues, earning a Venice Film Festival award in 1960. Through her work in film, Schinasi demonstrated her commitment to addressing injustices and advocating for human rights, themes that would resonate throughout her career.

Advocacy and Legacy:

Altina Schinasi’s activism extended beyond her art and films. She was a vocal advocate for civil rights, using her resources and platform to support causes she believed in. Schinasi’s passion for social justice, combined with her creative talents, made her a formidable force for change. Her life’s work serves as a testament to the power of art as a tool for social commentary and reform.

Today, Schinasi’s legacy lives on, not only in the iconic eyewear that revolutionized women’s fashion but also in her contributions to film and social activism. Her life reminds us of the impact one individual can have in challenging the status quo and inspiring change through creativity and determination.


Altina Schinasi was a true renaissance woman, whose diverse talents and unwavering commitment to social justice left a mark on the world that transcends time. From the streets of New York to the boulevards of Paris, her legacy of innovation, activism, and artistry continues to inspire new generations. As we look back on her remarkable life, we are reminded of the profound impact that creativity, coupled with conviction, can have on society. Schinasi’s story encourages us to see the world through a lens of possibility and to use our talents in service of a better, more just world.