Jane Fortune

Jane Fortune
(8/7/1942 – 9/23/2018)

Jane Fortune was born in 1942 and raised in Indianapolis, one of four children of William Lemcke Fortune, Sr. and Jane Hennessy Fortune. Her parents were both journalists, and her father later served as Indiana’s State Treasurer and Commissioner of the State Revenue Department. As an adult, Florence, Italy, became Ms. Fortune’s spiritual home, as well as the site of one her four actual homes. She was known as “Indiana Jane” in Florence, and in 2015, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella honored her with the Fiorino d’Oro Award, the city’s highest honor: “We consider Dr. Fortune, one of our citizens, one of us, a Florentine in every way, and I’d even go so far as to say, a great Florentine.”

Jane Fortune with her 2013 Emmy Award for a PBS special based upon her 2009 book, Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence. Photo credit: advancingwomenartists.org

Ms. Fortune’s family was philanthropic. Her great-grandfather, William Fortune, worked with Col. Eli Lilly to help found the Indianapolis Commercial Club in 1890, now known as the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. He is entombed in his mausoleum at the top of Crown Hill, across the road from James Whitcomb Riley. The 2005-2006 restoration and enlargement of the Gothic Chapel was carried out through a gift directed by Jane and her siblings, Pamela Fortune Werbe, Richard Fortune, and William L. Fortune, Jr., in memory of their parents. The formal garden outside the chapel is in memory of her mother, Jane Hennessy Fortune, a gift from Jane’s sister Pamela and her husband.

A long supporter of the arts, Ms. Fortune was most noted for being the founder and chair of Advancing Women Artists, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to research, restore and exhibit the art of women artists of the Tuscany region around Florence. Most of the art had been hidden away in churches and museums until her 2009 book, Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence, cast a new light on them. The book inspired an Emmy-winning PBS special in 2013, which was the catalyst to reclaiming these works from oblivion or decay. Under her leadership, 55 artworks by female artists spanning five centuries have been restored and returned to the museum spotlight in renowned venues like the Uffizi Galleries, Santa Croce, the Accademia and the San Marco Museum. She co-wrote other books about the artists and about the city itself and was a frequent contributor to magazines on those subjects.

Ms. Fortune’s marriage ended in divorce in 1964 but produced two children, a son, and a daughter. She later met Robert R. Hesse, another advocate and executive in the arts, and the two were partners for her last 25 years. Together they founded the Indianapolis Ballet in 2008 and a seasonal Italian restaurant in northern Michigan. In 2014, they were named “Living Legends” by the Indiana Historical Society. Among her many other awards, accolades, and memberships is the “Outstanding Visiting Artist Lecture Series” at the Herron School of Art and Design.

What she most treasured though, was the Medal of Florence Citizenship she received. “She wanted the medal buried with her,” her son, John, said. “Don’t forget to tell everyone that I was a citizen of Florence.” She died in 2018 at age 76 from ovarian cancer.

Buried in Section 87A (Fortune Triangle), Lot 5; GPS (39.8188349,-86.1748442)