Antonietta - Antonia Barbara Giulia Faustina Angiola Lucia - was the last child of Giacomo Fagnani (1740-1785) and Costanza Brusati Settala (1747-1805), sister of Maria Emilia Fagnani, later Marquess of Hertford and Countess of Pembroke. She married Marco Arese Lucini, sixth count of Barlassina of the Arese family, son of Benedetto Arese Lucini and Margherita Lucini of the Marquis of Besate, on the 20th of February 1798 in the church of Santa Maria alla Porta. They had five children, three which survived: Margherita (1798-1828), Costanza (1803-1822) and Francesco (1805-1881).
Antonietta was one of the most notable figures of Milanese society in the Napoleonic era. Close friends with Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen Consort of the Netherlands, whose son became Napoleon III, she was active in the court of her brother Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Fluent in French, English, and German, she translated The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe into Italian and helped Ugo Foscolo with his revisions of The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (1802).
Relationship with Ugo Foscolo
Her relationship with Foscolo likely began in July of 1801. The poet dedicated his ode All'amica risanata ('To the healed friend') to her, stating "Oh how beautiful you were that evening! How many times I retracted my eyes full of fear! Yes, my fantasy and my heart began to create of you a divinity," ("E com'eri tu bella questa sera! Quante volte ho ritirati i miei occhi pieni di spavento! Sì, la mia fantasia e il mio cuore cominciano a crearsi di te una divinità.") By March 4th 1803 their relationship had ended, with Foscolo writing that Antonietta "had a heart made of brain" ("aveva il cuore fatto di cervello").
Their relationship is known through his letters, which present an interesting literary case. Antonietta returned Foscolo's letters to him after their relations had ended, and the poet then entrusted them to Silvio Pellico. After Pellico's arrest the letters passed through various hands, including the Italo-Greek writer Emilio De Tipaldo. De Tipaldo created two apographa, which ended up with the Barbèra Editorial House. The originals, likely in Greece, have never been found.
Having contracted a grave venereal disease, in October 1847 she moved to Genova to heal but soon died. Her remains are buried in the Church of San Babila in Milan.
Antonietta's reputation was often one of controversy: Stendhal referred to her as a femme de génie, Vincenzo Monti admired her greatly, and Giuseppe Pecchio, biographer of Foscolo, wrote: "She makes a game of men because she believes them born like roosters, made for loving, jealousy, and scuffles." ("Si fa gioco degli uomini perché li crede nati come i galli per amare, ingelosirsi e azzuffarsi").
Giuseppe Rovani, in his masterwork Cento anni, wrote: "most beautiful of beauties, she had much spirit, much ingenuity, much culture (she spoke four languages); she was kind, generous, and affable; in sum, she constituted the rare combination of egrege qualities; but all of them seemed to fall apart under the hurricane of her one defect. She made love her only pastime; but a pastime that was tumultuous, quivering, restless; one most say that this love was parent of that which remained naked in Greece, as Foscolo said" ("bellissima fra le belle, aveva molto spirito, molto ingegno, molta coltura (parlava quattro lingue); era buona, generosa e affabile; costituiva insomma il complesso rarissimo di egrege qualità; ma tutte parevano sfasciarsi sotto l'uragano di un difetto solo. Ella faceva dell'amore l'unico passatempo; ma un passatempo tumultuoso, fremebondo, irrequieto; né occorre il dire che quell'amore era parente di quello rimasto nudo in Grecia, come disse Foscolo".