Monday, 10 June 2013

Sigh and Swoon....

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know I have a few historical crushes: George Price Boyce, Hot Fred Stephens... well, possibly the most beautiful man of the nineteenth century has to be this one...

Iago (1867) Julia Margaret Cameron
The inspiration for this post came from two different places.  Firstly, when I was on the Wight last month, I went to the lovely Dimbola Lodge, museum of all things Julia Margaret Cameron.  The original may well be in Bradford, in the National Media Museum, but a print hangs in Dimbola Lodge for ladies to feel faint in front of.  Iago was the poster boy for the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of Cameron's work a few years ago, and I have been rather fond of him ever since.

Obviously I wanted to know about him (for purely academic reasons, honestly) and so off to the web I went.  Most places cite the model as being Angelo Colarossi, a professional model of Italian descent.  Angelo was the studio assistant for Alfred Gilbert, the sculptor, and acted as model for Eros...

Mmmmm, wing-y
However, in my researching I found mention of a recent article in The British Art Journal by the lovely Scott Thomas Buckle, who has offered a decent identification for not only Iago, but also a host of other Pre-Raph lovelies, which I shall relay to you now.

To start with, even I noticed there was a problem with the identification of Angelo as Iago.  Iago was photographed about 8 years before Angelo was born which would make it a bit tricky for him to pose for it (unless he had a time machine, I never rule that out).  As luck would have it, he was the son of Angelo Colarossi Snr who also acted as a model for John William Waterhouse, Millais, Leighton and others.  Get a load of this...

Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877) Frederick Leighton
Good Lord, I bet he'd be handy around the house.  Sorry.  Anyhow, these weren't the only Italian models present in London during this period, a gentleman called Gaetano Meo was also getting a decent amount of work, including one of my favourites by Simeon Solomon.

The Sleepers and the One who Watcheth (1870) Simeon Solomon
Gaetano is the lovely chap on the right, and also served as model for Love Among the Ruins by Edward Burne-Jones.  However, Burne-Jones painted more than one copy of the image and when he produced the watercolour (the one that has been in the news recently), the models were Antonia Caiva and Alessandro di Marco.

Alessandro di Marco (1865) Edward Burne-Jones
Alessandro was believed to come from north west Italy, from Piedmont, where his original trade was that of an organ grinder (monkey optional).  When he was 12 years old, he was discovered by Frederick Leighton who included him in the massive canvas snappily titled Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence...

Cimabue (1853) Frederick Leighton
Yes, he's the one on the...never mind, he's in there somewhere.  He began to model more frequently, leaving the grinding behind him (snigger), and eventually made his way to London where he found work with Alphonse Legros.

A May Service for Young Women (1868) Alphonse Legros
He's the one with the organ, but he's not grinding it this time.  He also got to be all Prodigal for both Edward Poynter and G F Watts...

The Prodigal Son G F Watts
The Prodigal's Return (1869) Edward Poynter
I think you can start to discern his features, those cheekbones!  In Poynter's picture especially he looks very much like Iago, it's quite easy to see it's the same chap.

I think my favourite picture done of Alessandro has to be this one...

The Renaissance of Venus Walter Crane
Having difficulty spotting our delicious gentleman?  He's the blonde at the front with his boobs out.  Now, the story goes that Mrs Crane objected to the fact that her husband would be looking at a nudey lady for hours on end in order to paint Venus, so the obliging Walter employed Alessandro to pose and just missed the relevant bits out. This is why Venus is sporting a six-pack.  Mrs Crane, I salute you and I hope you found plenty of reasons to walk past the studio door.  As it was said, when the painting was revealed, 'That is not Aphrodite, that's Alessandro!'

Scott also suggests that Alessandro may have been the face of Merlin in The Beguiling of Merlin...

The Beguiling of Merlin Edward Burne-Jones

Previously, it was suggested that Ned used William Stillman, husband of Marie Spartali Stillman for the figure of Merlin, and here is Rossetti's portrait of Stillman from around this time...

While it is not out of the question, I think the figure of the wizard looks more like a version of the figure in Love Among the Ruins, clean-shaven and Mediterranean.  It is certainly true that Burne-Jones intended to use Stillman, but it isn't clear whether or not he managed to get a figure from him, and he expressed worry about the position that Stillman would have to hold.  However, Alessandro, being a professional model, would be used to bending about (deary me!) and so would have found it no trouble.

On that lovely image I shall leave you.  It occurs to me I have spent a couple of decades researching the lives of the female models but there is a wealth of gentlemen who modelled, whose lives are waiting to be discovered.  Who knows what exciting stories wait to be told?  Plus I get to spend more time legitimately staring at Iago.



  1. Ooooh! Ooooh! Yes!

    Wait, that sounds a little hectic.

    Thank you for identifying Merlin. I always thought he was hot (since I was about 12 and had the poster on my wall. It was the Seventies; everyone had this poster)and, although I love Mckellen in his big blue hat, I'm fine with a hot wizard, too.

    I knew the Aphrodite story, but I'd never thought of it from Mrs Crane's point of view. I see now she might have had an ulterior motive...

  2. Ha! Today's post is definitely one for the ladies, sorry chaps!

    Yes, I would give that Merlin a beguiling he'd remember. Oh dear, it's all getting a bit unprofessional, I ought to say something intellectual about 'genre' and the 'mystic feminine versus the proto-male protagonistic tension' or something.

    Chatting with the lovely Grace Nuth earlier, we agreed that we'd find an excuse to make lots of pots of tea for Mr Crane if we were Mrs Crane. I'd make sure I had nice biscuits in for that gentleman. See, I managed to keep that vaguely clean and didn't say something saucy like 'I'd definitely get my Viennese Swirls out for that chap'...

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Bless you, darling. Perfect Monday gift.

  4. Not only educational but fun and fruity -'what Larks' Kirstie

  5. What larks indeed :)

    Happy Monday for all!

  6. ever since I first saw this photo its always made me think of Emmanuel Petit (do I need to add, the French footballer?)
    Maybe its just me..
    At this point I had added a link to a picture but it seems not to be possible so for those of you who don't know him you'll have to do it yourself.
    Incidentally I had missed the news about the original version of Love Among the Ruins, lets hope its bought by a public gallery.

  7. Oh yes, I know who you mean. He does a bit, doesn't he?

    Yes, hopefully the picture will be bought by a public collection but considering the price they go for and the state of gallery finances, I'd be surprised...

  8. I found this quite fascinating. Thank you.

  9. Always wondered who the model was for Head of an Italian Man by Leighton. Any thoughts?

    1. I'm guessing he's the same chap as in 'Golden Hours' by Lieghton, which Christies have as Angelo Colarossi. However, the identities of the Italian male models in mid-Victorian England is something people still scrap over, so it's probably best to say he is either Colarossi, Allasandro Di Marco or Geatano Valvona. You would not believe the arguing that goes on...

  10. If it's the picture from 1864 that would have made Gaetano seven years old! So it's not him (Gaetano's great great grandson).


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx