LGBT+ History Month - Fiore De Henriquez

Fiore-De-Henriquez  20 June 1921 – 5 June 2004

Fiore was born in Trieste in Italy to a mother of Turkish origin and her father came from a line of Spanish noblemen of the Habsburgh court in Vienna.

As a teenager, she was part of the fascist youth movement. In 1935, her father was denounced as an anti-fascist as he refused to Italinise his name and was sent into internal exile. During the German occupation of northern Italy, she helped escort Jewish refugees to safety by assisting the partisans. At the end of the war, she was caught by the Germans and they interrogated her – she luckily managed to escape through a window of a toilet.

While studying philosophy and literature in Venice, she made friends with some of the art students. While helping one of the studios knead the clay, she started making a head which was a self-portrait which led to her becoming a sculptor. She studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Venice from 1939-1942.

Her first exhibition was in Florence in 1947. In 1949, she won a competition for a civic statue in Salerno. For this, she created a monument in bronze of Don Giovanni Cuomo. When the men present realised that a woman had won the competition, they destroyed the monument. Following this, she left for England.

Over her life, she would divide her time between Tuscany and London and had a studio in London. She became a British citizen in 1953. She had two solo shows in Rome in 1975 and 1983. During the second half of the 50s to 1965, she travelled around the USA.

Her experience of being intersex informed her work. Androgyny was a common theme as well as ambiguous creatures, conjoined figures and twinning motifs of paired heads. She declared herself “proud to be hermaphrodite” and “two people inside one body”. 

In the first few months of her living in London, she had some commissions for portrait sculptures. In 1950, she had two head sculptures exhibited in the Royal Academy summer show and following this she was commissioned to produce work for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

As part of her work, De Henriquez created portrait sculptures of many people including Oprah Winfrey, Laurence Olivier and Igor Starvinsky. Between 1948 and 2004, she created 4,000 portraits. 

De Henriquez found the hamlet of Peralta in Italy, originally a ruin, and rebuilt it. As part of the rebuild, she tracked the original owners of the house – some who had moved to as far as the USA or Australia. She wanted Peralta to be a place for artists and writers to meet, live and work.

She died on the 5th June 2004 at the age of 82 in Peralta.