Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1865-1914 - Piccadilly Circus (Westminster)

The Slade School of Art was established at University College London, Gower Street, in 1870. Its first Professor of Fine Art was Edward Poynter who was trained in Paris and lived just down the road at no. 101 Gower Street. He urged his students to use Italian rather than English male models for their work. Their physique was superior; their feet were not deformed because they wore sandals rather than tight-fitting shoes. The Italian model came closes to the ideal of Greek (nude) masculinity. Since the influx of artists from the North, male modelling had become a cottage industry in parts of Italy (Abruzzo and elsewhere).

Many Italian models living in Paris crossed the Channel with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. They were well-received because they were considered reliable workers who were willing to supplement their earnings at selling ice creams and chestnuts or act as organ grinders. Some models made outstanding careers. From around 1865 to the First World War, Italian immigrants were the elite of the profession and prominent in leading studios and art classes. Often there were whispers about sexual relationships. Nicola d’Iverno had lived in London since infancy, the child of Italian immigrants. In 1892 he entered the sevice of John Singer Sargent, acting as valet and (nude) model for two decades. An erotic bond has frequently been a suggested. Young Angelo Colarassi was the teenage model for Albert Gilbert’s Anteros in Picadilly Circus (commonly known as Eros), a monument dedicated to Lord Shaftesbury.

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