Francesca Bertini: silent diva, spectator & her female spectators

Katharine Mitchell, Anna Misiak (Editor), Anna Backman Rogers (Editor), Houman Sadri (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationFeatured article


Francesca Bertini—the stage and screen name of Elena Seracini Vitiello—was born in Florence in 1892, though her date of birth is a source of contention, with some critics claiming she was born in 1888 (Bianchi 1969: 10). Her mother, allegedly a female actor, registered her at an orphanage as Elena Taddei. She was raised in Naples from 1894 by Adelina di Venanzio Fratiglioni and Arturo Vitiello, who worked in theatre props, and whose surname Bertini took in 1910.

Bertini began her career working as a theatre actor in Naples at the Teatro Nuovo in 1903 at the age of 11, as one of several Neapolitan-dialect actors under the directorship of Gennaro Pantalena (1848-1915). Her cinema debut occurred in 1907 at the age of 15 in La dea del mare (The Sea Goddess), and in 1909 she performed in Salvatore Di Giacomo’s Assunta Spina (1904) at the Teatro Nuovo with Adelina Magnetti (1882-1963) in the lead role. Bertini would herself go on to perform the role of Assunta and co-direct the screenplay in 1915 with Gustavo Serena (1881-1970). Set in Naples in contemporary times, Assunta, a laundry worker, who is engaged in an affair, defends her abusive fiancé in court and has an affair during her fiancé’s imprisonment. When he is released, he murders Assunta’s lover, but she takes the blame for his crime and is herself imprisoned.


  • spectatorship
  • Francesca Bertini
  • Italy
  • silent film


Dive into the research topics of 'Francesca Bertini: silent diva, spectator & her female spectators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this