Anticoli Corrado, a hilltop village in Lazio, has a long-standing connection to the artists of Rome thanks to its picturesque scenery. It was also celebrated for its people, who were known for being particularly attractive and often served as life models for artists in Rome. The reputation of Anticoli Corrado was developed in the nineteenth century through travellers writing about the town’s features.
The artist Percy Sturdee stayed there for a short while in the 1880s, and recounted his experience in The Scottish Art Review. It was the “aesthetic indigestion” of staying in Rome, coupled with “the approaching heat” of summer that would turn “the Eternal City into a temporary bakehouse” and which made him accept a friend’s invitation to stay at Anticoli Corrado. He was aware of its reputation, and it did not disappoint. Sturdee recorded that “nothing could equal the beauty of the scene which meets your eyes on this journey … it seemed as if I were arrived into the delectable country for which lovers sigh and of which poets dream.” And it was not just the village, set as it is against the dramatic Italian landscape. So too the people:
“If a model has not been previously engaged, they are easy to find; for every one one meets is worthy, either from beauty of type or picturesqueness of costume, of being reproduced on canvas. Indeed Anticoli, with the adjacent village of Saracenesco, is the mother of all the models that flood Rome in the winter months with their goat-skins, slouch-hats, knee-breeches and red waist-coats, and that give to the steps of Trinita del Monte a character all its own. When the summer draws on, and Rome empties, they usually depart too, and (like Cincinnatus) once more return to the spade in their own country till the next winter. And many a face does one begin to meet again in Anticoli that before one had seen in the Margutta or the Piazza di Spagna. And, which is always a consideration, they will pose for you here at half the price they will demand at the capital. Whereas in Rome they will ask 5 francs a day, here they will only ask 2 francs 50.”
The town’s architecture appealed not just to painters, but to others, too, for
“Every house is a wonder for a painter, an architect, or an engineer. For a painter, for obvious reasons, for its charms of tone and quaintness of form. For an architect, because many of these, poor and filthy as they are, are veritable specimens of fourteenth and fifteenth century architecture; one, indeed, I know to be of thirteenth century construction. While, for an engineer, the continual wonder must be that they do not tumble down.”
The town’s reputation persisted into the twentieth century. Frank Hyde, writing just before the First World War, noted its popularity amongst artists and its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Hyde, arriving through the old part of town, “found fifteen or twenty artists of all nationalities already installed.” There were “writers, poets, and sculptors”; “there must have been quite fifty or sixty artists and their wives in the town”. It was similarly the people who captivated him. He noted that “a sight also worth seeing are the girls who come at this hour to the fountain in the piazza, carrying their wonderful-shaped copper pitchers, each girl waiting her turn, laughing and joking with the artists who assemble there to choose their models.” It was the perfect place for an artist to work, for
“There is no begging, no pestering the artist as at other places. Most of the painters work out of doors, painting the nude in the open air under the vines; it is very seldom that a studio is used, although they can be got at a reasonable price — say 20 francs a month … The place is so small, however, that you prefer of an evening to sit outside and drink your glass of Protto, watching the endless procession of picturesque figures pass before you.”
This was emphasised again by Martin Birnbaum, recounting his meeting there with Maurice Stern. Birnbaum writes
“Anticoli is inhabited almost exclusively by models and all the artists in Rome rely on it to supply them with inspiration. It is a strange place, characteristically Italian, full of appalling tilth and inhabitants of great beauty. The women are like goddesses, carrying water on their heads from the public fountain in shining copper vessels resembling amphorae; the goatherds are ideals of masculine strength and grace and they all maintain their charm in notoriously dirty houses, mingling with squealing black swine, cattle, poultry and innumerable half-naked bambini.”
It was in this tradition of art and artistry that the BSR’s fellows joined. Colin Gill (1892-1940) is noted to have been the first of the Rome Scholars to visit Anticoli Corrado, embodying the tradition that the Rome Scholarship had been established to protect. There he was joined by Job Nixon (1891-1938) and Winifred Knights (1899-1947) , along with Arnold Mason (1885-1963), fellow artist and fiancé to Knights. There they enjoyed the scenery, practised their craft, and lived the Italian lifestyle, removed as they were from their comfortable British surroundings, that so many other artists had enjoyed before them. Jack Benson even married a woman from the village.
Where would you like to go next? Who would you like to meet?
Sources and Further Reading
James Sully, Italian Travel Sketches (London: Constable, 1912)
Percy Sturdee, “Bohemianism in Anticoli-Corrado,” The Scottish Art Review (Glasgow: E. Stock, 1888).
Frank Hyde, “Anticoli Corrado, A Town of Models,” The International Studio 47, no. 187 (1912): 219-23.
Martin Birnbaum, “Maurice Sterne,” The International Studio 46, no. 181 (1912): iii-xiii.
For a full bibliography and further reading, see here.