Artists’ model Angelo Colarossi was born in 1838 in the Abruzzo village of Picinisco. Arriving in England in the mid-1860s, he settled in the Hammersmith area, near the homes of the Holland Park set where Sara Prinsep (one of the celebrated Pattle sisters) held court to a gathering of Victorian artists. Admired for his fine physique, he was soon in demand as a model. In 1867 he posed for Julia Margaret Cameron, sister of Sara Prinsep. She took the stunning 1867 photograph ‘Iago, Study from an Italian’ (Iago is a villain Shakespeare’s Othello). Unshaven and brooding, this is one of the finest portraits in early photography.
His career soon took off. John Everett Millais depicted him as a seaman in The Boyhood of Raleigh (1870), while John Singer Sargent cast him in the role of Moses. Frederic Leighton portrayed him as An Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877) and as Elijah in the Wilderness (1879). Colarossi can also be seen as a figure in relief on the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens and leading a lion as part of Queen Victoria’s Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. In 1883, John William Waterhouse made him a slave in The Favourite of the Emperor Honorius. The 1881 census records the Colarossi family as living at no. 14 Masboro Road West, Brook Green, Hammersmith. Angelo died in London in 1916. His son, also named Angelo, was the teenage model for Albert Gilbert’s Anteros in Picadilly Circus (commonly known as Eros), a monument dedicated to Lord Shaftesbury.