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The American Literary Sculptors: A Map of the Roman Studios

Daniele Pomilio


This critical account of the art studios of what was once the Roman art district, visited by the Alcott sisters during their stay in Rome in winter 1870-71, casts light on a vivid, cosmopolitan art scene through micro-biographies of the American literary sculptors trained at the school of Thorvaldsen and Canova. Among them, the unprecedented freedom experienced in Rome by the community of American sculptresses led by Charlotte Cushman contributed to their professional emancipation while producing marble representations of their republican and abolitionist values.

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  • 1 “Below the Pincio, Thorvaldsen lived, in Piranesi’s old house, with block of marble lying about in (...)

1The studios of the American literary sculptors in Rome were important landmarks on the Grand Tour. They were visited by masters of American literature such as Hawthorne and Cooper (who planned to be a sculptor in Rome before becoming a fiction writer, 1979), Fuller and Melville. As a great admirer of ancient Greek proportions, the latter spent a full month in the Eternal City in cordial conversation, on March 10th, 1857, with John Gibson, the British sculptor educated at the school of Thorvaldsen.1 Thomas Crawford and John Gibson were the first-generation literary sculptors who, along with the Florence-based Horatio Greenough and Hiram Powers, gained an international reputation by turning Greek slaves, mythological sybils and Roman queens into powerful allegories of American subjects, particularly woman suffrage and abolitionism.

  • 2 Crawford’s renowned studio is thus described by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Passages from the French (...)
  • 3 “Our friends breakfast immediately with the Crawfords at Villa Negroni, where the irrepressible Mar (...)
  • 4 Gibson’s atelier was located in 4 via del Babuino at the intersection of via della Fontanella and v (...)

2The Bernini enthusiast Thomas Crawford arrived in Rome to study with Bertel Thorvaldsen as early as 1837, later to settle with his family in the Villa Negroni, majestically located in the current Piazza di Termini,2 its grounds extending to the Temple of Minerva Medica and overlooking his studios. Margaret Fuller frequented them, located among the ruins of Diocletian’s Baths, as Henry James Jr. recalls in his biography of William Wetmore Story.3 John Gibson, also trained by Canova’s disciples, was a British member of the renowned Academy of St. Luke located in via Bonella of the rione Monti: a street now vanished from the city map but then connecting the Roman Forum to via Baccina. Thanks to the commissions of Congressman Charles Sumner, Gibson and Crawford were the earliest literary sculptors in Rome to be appointed by the American government to decorate the Capitol and the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington (Daniele “In Canova’s Traces”). Gibson, along with his favorite student Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, who occupied a room in the garden of his atelier, mostly worked for British patrons, turning that neighborhood into a colony of English artists.4

3As disciples of Canova and Thorvaldsen, these early American literary sculptors gave a modern idiom to the ancient beauty of Athens’s temples and sculptures, exporting classical models of democracy overseas, and instantly making of Rome a mecca of the marble art (Taft). They successfully merged the dominant neoclassical style with a baroque aesthetic that Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen revisited while welcoming “every travelling foreigner, mallet in hand” in their truly international school of sculpture (Brooks 28). Gibson and Crawford, in particular, became the innovative pupils of Canova first defined by Nathaniel Hawthorne “literary sculptors,” referring to a new model of artist “of the finest imagination, the most delicate taste, the sweetest feeling, and the rarest artistic skill—in a word, a sculptor and a poet, too” (1961 16). They re-elaborated the Graeco-Roman idiom blending with the plastic fantasy of Bernini whose baroque elements prevailed in Roman churches, and were remodeled in an art which looked back to the past, while absorbing Donatello’s elegance (Mariani 1990 490).

4The art itinerary which follows reflects the stages of the EAAS Seminar’s walking tour organized on October 12, 2019 to highlight the vitality of the Eternal City as an artistic laboratory inhabited by American travelers “like a stage, while the Italians seemed to them like actors playing parts in some poetic dream” (Brooks 50-51). It reconstructs fifty years of American literary sculpture in Rome, stressing the cosmopolitan nature of the integrated art circle encountered by the Alcott sisters in town. The Seminar’s walking tour of the landmarks of Louisa May Alcott’s stay in Rome in winter 1870-1871 originated a literary and sculptural itinerary which I sketched out in the attached map. My aim here is to illustrate the most significant studios visited in Rome by the writer and the other art attractions identified by Bonfigli’s travel guidebook in 1860. The latter was addressed to art commissioners but also to foreign travelers like Louisa’s sister, May Alcott, who sought opportunities for art education in the Eternal City.

  • 5 On the artwork of the literary sculptresses in Rome see Mrs. Elizabeth Fries Ellet; Elsa Honig Fine (...)

5Given the cultural impact of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer and of the other American women sculptors led by Charlotte Cushman in the Barberini area where the two sisters resided,5 in my map I graphically stressed in overlay the images of these two women and of Louisa May’s painterly sister, the copyist and painter May Alcott Nieriker. May found her training in landscape painting in via Margutta, and Rose Peckham’s 1879 portrait, along with the pictures of the tomboyish Harriet Hosmer and of the cross-dressed Cushman who was for a long time her patroness, are highly representative of the vital Roman scene able to nurture their artistic talents, in what Mary Ann Caws would define a creative community with its own meeting-places and art venues (2019) which, contrary to the conventional representation of the American literary sculptors in Rome, included many women (Dabakis).

6Bonfigli’s guidebook of the Roman ateliers was specifically designed for arty travelers like May Alcott who came to Italy to study art. His volume lists the art studios that could be freely accessed, either to take classes, to have one’s bust or portrait taken, or to purchase artworks to be delivered abroad. He thus instructs his readers: “Foreigners visiting this ancient City, the seat of the Fine Arts, are informed, that is customary in Rome to visit the STUDIOS without any formal introduction to the Artists. They may enter whatever ATELIER they please by merely presenting themselves at the locality and asking permission from the Artist which is readily and most kindly accorded” (5).

7Beside this popular documentary source, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Marble Faun (1860) based on his sojourn in town in the late 1850s, remains a detailed literary and sculptural Baedeker whose “vivid descriptions of Roman sites and works of art,” according to Musacchio, made of it “an alternative guidebook, and necessary reading for all travelers or would-be travelers. It was republished in multiple editions over the years, including an especially popular version by Tauchnitz publishers in Leipzig. Each Tauchnitz volume, which was readily available from English-language booksellers in Italy, came with blank pages for the insertion of photographs.” Hawthorne’s Roman tales and notebooks also inspired May Alcott Nieriker’s own travel guidebook for women artists, Studying Art Abroad, and How to Do It Cheaply (1979), in which she explains that “[a]n artistic souvenir of Rome is made by buying a copy of the Marble Faun or Roba di Roma in the Tauchnitz edition, and inserting the vignette photographs of the places described mounted on fresh pages, binding the whole in the lovely Roman vellum, which has the advantage when soiled of being easily made white and spotless again by washing with soap and water. At one time the arrangement of these albums was so much of fashionable amusement among foreigners who could neither sketch nor paint such charming bits of antiquity as the Temple of Vesta, Hilda’s Tower, or the Ghetto bazaars, that complete sets of the photographs, arranged in regular order, could always be had in the print and book shops” (85-6). Taking into account this variety of creative and documentary sources, my map locates the landmarks of the Alcott sisters during their stay, illuminating the main art venues and studios described by the visitors, sketched by the artists themselves, and photographed by A. Sbracia (Archivio fotografico comunale, Museo of Roma).

1. The Barberini Quarter

  • 6 As Michèle Rivas points out, “Foreigners shunned the Borgo, the Trastevere, and the Campo Marzio al (...)

8The Seminar’s walking tour, which I here illustrate in its literary and artistic implications, started from the neighborhood where Louisa May Alcott, her sister May and their mutual friend Alice Bartlett actually settled. Our meeting point on Saturday, October 12, was precisely 2 Piazza Barberini where Alcott rented six rooms with a view on the square (Stern 204), and from where she could freely move along the Corso as far as the classical and Medieval palimpsest of the Jewish neighborhood where the Palazzo Caetani of the Centro Studi Americani is located. In the labyrinth of narrow streets of the Jews’ quarter, bordering the river and exposed to malaria, 6our group strolled and light-heartedly conversed over dinner in a cramped, vaporous trattoria devasted by the Tiber’s flood on December 28, 1870. The sculptors’ ateliers extended in the vast area which, from Piazza Barberini through the current via Sistina and via Gregoriana, reached the side streets of Via del Corso and bordered via di Ripetta, where most nineteenth-century artists established their working spaces, and which still constitutes the pulsating center of the Roman galleries and art-schools. In the vanished sculptural scene located between via del Babuino and via del Tritone, the Seminar’s group explored what was left of the Canova’s studio, walking, as far as the Church of Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi, to the famous tower occupied by Hilda in The Marble Faun.

  • 7 “Harriet had brought Browning’s poems in her travelling-bag, and she persuaded the poet to read alo (...)

9The area located between Piazza Barberini and via del Corso was the quarter of the renowned schools of Canova and Thorvaldsen, whose motto was “Clay is life, plaster is death, marble is the resurrection” (Freeman 30). They attracted many sculptors, painters and cameo-cutters from oversees driven by both aesthetic and political interests. On a sideroad off Piazza Barberini where the Alcott sisters resided for a month, a second landmark of their stay was the studio of George Healy, located in via di San Nicola da Tolentino, where Louisa May agreed to sit for one of her best portraits. That corner had been previously occupied in 1843 by Samuel Gridley Howe, not far from 38 via Gregoriana where Charlotte Cushman lived with Harriet Goodhue Hosmer. The latter gained a reputation with The Sleeping Faun, after the Paris exhibition of 1867 and her sculptures still lived in Alcott’s mind when she composed Diana & Persis. Like Hosmer’s winged child copied from Praxiteles and inspired by Cushman’s adopted nephew, Angelino (Tuckerman 602), in Alcott’s unfinished novella Diana’s Cupid is modelled on another Nino, the son of Stafford: the author of an imposing sculpture of “Saul,” named after the homonymous statue created in Rome by the American literary sculptor William Wetmore Story, and notably celebrated in the eponymous poem by Robert Browning.7

10Story, who was a sincere admirer of Hosmer and one of the most influential American expatriates in Rome, lived in via Bocca di Leone in Campo Marzio but, as many other sculptors used to do, established his art quarter in Piazza Barberini, in the building erected by the Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli (Liverani 68), named “the Italian Richelieu” for his strong resistance to the unification of Italy. By contrast, Story had a liberal mind and supported the Italian patriots, who attended the soirées organized in his private theater where Charlotte Cushman performed en travesti.

11Story was not the only American in Rome to be amused by Hosmer’s tomboyish style. She reminded him and Elizabeth Barrett Browning of their friend Rosa Bonheur: the animal painter from Bordeaux depicted by Browning in a letter from Paris as “a glorious little creature with a touch of Hatty about her that makes one start” (Brooks 107). Like Charlotte Cushman, who led the circle of women sculptors in Rome, Bonheur gathered a creative group of women painters around her, introducing a cross-dressed style that American expatriates in Rome like Hosmer quickly appropriated. They “admittedly avoided marriage in order to keep [their] independence,” symbolically endorsing an “emancipated mode of dress” like the male attire adopted by Bonheur when she “daily perched on a ladder to work on the immense canvas” of The Horse Fair (currently at the Metropolitan Museum), which made of her “the cause célèbre at the Salon in Paris of 1853” (Tufts 148-49).

12Relying upon Saint-Simonian views on woman suffrage and “moving freely in trousers rather than in trailing skirts, Bonheur adopted such attire along with short hair” (147), establishing an extravagant style illustrated in popular women’s magazines as eccentric models of female independence and hermaphroditic creativity. In his biography of William Wetmore Story, Henry James jr., who lived in via Condotti in 1869, stigmatized the free-spirited women artists who embraced Bonheur’s provocative style in Rome as a “white marmorean flock” (137-38).

13Among these second-generation literary sculptors who lived in perfect emancipation, Harriet Goodhue Hosmer arrived in Rome on November 12, 1852, with her father, the journalist Grace Greenwood and her patroness Cushman. As Thorp recalls, Hosmer “descended in Rome to take advantage of the Carrara marble and the trained artists there” (108-9) and initially tried to access Thomas Crawford’s studio as a disciple. The motherless daughter of a physician from Massachusetts, Hosmer attended Miss Elizabeth Sedgwick’s progressive boarding-school for young ladies nicknamed “The Hive” and “The Culture Factory,” and arrived in Rome with a diploma in anatomy from the medical school of St. Louis, sponsored by Dr. Wayman Crow, and a head of a graceful, sleeping beauty called Hesper (1852), evoked by Alcott in Moods (1864). Harriet’s father proudly showed the daguerreotypes of that work to John Gibson in Rome, who became her daughter’s mentor. Since Gibson’s patrons were mainly British, and the nearby ateliers were mostly rented by British artists, Hosmer was reached there by the celebrated English poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, then based in Florence (Sherwood 121). The latter defined Hosmer as “a great pet of mine and Robert’s” (Thorp 109) and posed with her husband for the famous “Clasped Hands of the Brownings” (1853), which perfectly represented their intimate, romantic spirit.

14Hosmer’s androgynous talent comically contrasted with her physical minuteness, providing a viable cross-dressed model for Alcott’s Jo March. She was raised by her father according to the Fourierist principles that Bronson Alcott followed in his utopian community “Fruitlands” and in his innovative Temple School, which he furnished with the marble busts of his main inspirers: Plato and Socrates (Tuckerman 602). Like the Alcott sisters who were allowed to lead a sportive, outdoor life, unrestrained by petticoats and in touch with nature, before moving to Rome, the tomboyish Harriet rode in the West among the Lakotas and, like Bonheur, was portrayed in Zouave breeches in the famous picture in which she posed on a giant scaffolding next to her colossal statue of Senator Thomas Hart Benton.

15Hosmer vitally animated Cushman’s extended family of women artists, first living not far from Goethe’s home, in 28 via del Corso, later moving to 38 via Gregoriana (Culkin 1, 4, 29). When she reappeared in America in the late 1850s, Tuckerman defined her “self-possessed, confident, and vivacious, in a costume and with hair so arranged as to give the appearance of a boy rather than a young woman and boasted that she had not worn a bonnet for five years” (601, 602). Alcott’s cross-dressed and dynamic depiction of Jo March in Little Women and of Sylvia Yule in the first chapter of Moods pays homage to the androgynous Amazon not afraid to “gallop across the Campagna, unattended, in the astonishment of both natives and foreigners” (Tuckerman 602).

16As a top student of John Gibson till 1860, Hosmer occupied in his garden a room which “had once belonged to Antonio Canova” (Thorp 109). Elizabeth Fries Ellet describes that studio close to Piazza del Popolo: “running at a right angle from the Babuino to the Corso, a few steps out of the Babuino on the left—is a large, rough, worm-eaten door…. A small piece of whip-chord, with a knot as handle, issued from a perforated hole, by means of which—a small bell being set in motion—access is gained to the studio of England’s greatest living masters of sculpture, John Gibson” (349-50).

  • 8 As Lydia Maria Child recalled, “It was her womanly modesty, her manly courage, and her intellectual (...)
  • 9 Martha Saxton reminded me that, in The Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne called his Margaret Fuller-lik (...)

17In 1860, Bonfigli’s guide to the Roman studios lists Hosmer’s two ateliers, being the only sculptor in Rome who welcomed her visitors in Gibson’s garden at 4, via della Fontanella and also in 5, via Margutta: a second studio accessible only Tuesdays and Fridays, and big enough to accommodate “[a] statue of heroic size, representing Zenobia captive” (14, 35). That imposing representation of the Syrian Queen of Palmira stood for Hosmer’s “masculine courage” (Brooks 108) and, in the typical syncretism of the American literary sculptors, mixed Oriental and Grecian features. Captured by the Romans and forced to walk in chains, Zenobia displayed a dignity which deeply impressed and challenged her enemies,8 her noble defeat and stately pride fictionally reproduced by Alcott in her tale “Countess Varazoff” in which the writer attributes the same defiant walkway to the Polish wife of a tyrannical Russian husband (Unmasked 638-47).9

  • 10 The separate room that Hosmer occupied in her mentor’s Mr. Gibson’s studio between the via del Cors (...)

18Hosmer was also the acclaimed author, in 1865, of two Fauns, traced by the librarian Alessandra Pinto Surdi from the Centro Studi Americani in Rome, along with the 1857 statue in memory of the English Catholic Lady Mme Falconet’s daughter in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte (1988 171). As early as 1856, she created the famous “Puck” currently exhibited at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford10 and reproduced at least thirty times, before being sent to the Hon. Samuel Hooper in Boston (Thorp 109). The winged Cupid (purchased by Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, for his rooms in Oxford) is attributed by Alcott to the unmarried sculptress in Diana & Persis and mentioned by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his preface to The Marble Faun along with the marble works by Paul Akers, William Wetmore Story and Randolph Rogers (VII).

19In that exclusive atelier of colored marbles in via Fontanella, in which Gibson used to decline the most profitable commissions if the subject to be modelled in marble had no ideal body shapes (Freeman 20), the Prince of Wales was escorted in 1859, as recorded on May 7, 1859 in “The Prince of Wales in Miss Hosmer’s Studio” (Harper’s Weekly). That illustrated article featured in a corner the engraving of Hosmer’s colossal sculpture “Zenobia in Chains” (Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford). Gibson could count upon patrons such as British lords, royalty, and the Senator Charles Sumner for the American government. But other foreign sculptors in Rome secured important commissions from Cardinal Antonelli, strategically accelerating their Catholic conversions to the dismay of their fellow countrymen. This was the case of the American sculptress of native and African origins Edmonia Lewis who confirmed Hilda’s syncretic cult of the Madonna in Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, and the interest of Julia Ward Howe in the rising Trinitarianism which she lyrically praised after her umpteenth journey to Rome, where she initially settled in via San Nicola di Tolentino and later in via di Capo le Case.

  • 11 “After the fall of the kingdom of Naples, the queen sat for her in Rome, and she spent a week at th (...)
  • 12 See C. Napoli on the Educandato de’ miracoli where poor and wealthy orphaned girls were moved from (...)

20The Catholic conversion of the Brook Farmer Isaac Hecker in Rome (Brooks 99), and of William Cullen Bryant who was baptized in Naples (141) were not unusual in the community of American expatriates in Italy. In her late days in Rome, even the unconventional Hosmer sought the patronage of Isabella, the Queen of Naples, who invited her to play chess with her husband: the so-called Re Bomba11 defeated by the Italian patriots. Hosmer’s imposing Isabella (1893) (Sherwood 267, 363), later purchased by Lady Ashburton for its “skillful mimicry of the ancient sculptors” (Brooks 108), was her unconditioned homage to the queen who opened the art schools for orphaned girls praised by May Alcott as the best ones in Italy (Studying Art Abroad ft., 86).12

21Alcott’s friend Anna Jameson, who was the author of Sacred and Legendary Art (1848), familiarized a wary American readership with the sacred artworks inspired by Catholicism. She met Hosmer through the Brownings, but Louisa May also learned of Hosmer’s tomboyish deeds through Anne Whitney, who took rides with the sculptress in the Roman Campagna.

22Whitney was still in Rome when the Alcott sisters arrived in December 1870, and was a suffragist sculptor and Alcott’s correspondent who witnessed with her the final episode of Italian unification and the arrival of King Victor Emmanuel II in town. Like many other American travelers in 1867, Whitney initially settled at the Hotel Costanzi with her lifetime companion, the painter Abby Adeline Manning, later to opt for an apartment on the first floor at strada Felice (currently named via Sistina) where they lived till August 1871, near the studios once occupied by Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorrain (Musacchio).

23Like May Alcott, Whitney had been a student of anatomy of William Rimmer and lived since 1867 in a hillside apartment in via Gregoriana, where Charlotte Cushman also welcomed Edmonia Lewis to Rome in 1865 (Porter 58). Lewis was, like Hosmer, a protégée of William Wetmore Story, and found her first home in town not too far from his studio in the Barberini area. After she finished Oberlin College, William Lloyd Garrison and his colleague, Maria Weston Chapman, supported her art training. Anne Whitney also helped her with modeling in Boston, where she authored the bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the African American 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment which enabled her to pay for her passage to Italy. Once in Rome, Lewis was introduced by Hosmer to Gibson, becoming, with Story and Powers, the literary sculptor who best represented abolitionism in their Neoclassical style. Through Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, who gave her access to the artists’ community of the Corso, she eventually moved her studio in 13, via della Frezza where Tuckerman met her (Porter 61-62). She later found an additional working space in 5, via Margutta with sufficient room to accommodate her own massive “Death of Cleopatra” (1876).

24As for the lawyer and socialite William Wetmore Story, when he became an artist in Rome he lived for forty-five years in the Palazzo Barberini with his family, contributing with his cultural activities to create an American sculptural scene in the local art district. He spent his vacations in Siena and in Bagni di Lucca with the Crawfords (Contenti), Hosmer and the Brownings. In those leisure hours, he authored a bust of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and taught modeling to her husband Robert, whose dramatic monologues he imitated in his lyrical impersonations of Roman and Italian figures such as Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo, the Duke of Urbino and Raphael (Brooks 106).

  • 13 Not far from Story’s small theater on the first floor of 13 via di S. Basilio, the American landsca (...)
  • 14 “With the Crawfords and his old friends the Storys, he went on picnics to Hadrian’s Villa, where th (...)

25Story’s studios were located in via Nicola de Tolentino, in a neighborhood full of sculptors and landscape painters,13 where he also occupied another studio, in via S. Isidoro (Mariani 1988 151). In his private “little theatre,” the Saint-Simonian Cushman rehearsed her cross-dressed shows, entertaining fellow travelers and Italian patriots whom she supported during her unconventional soirées attended by James Russell Lowell14 and Margaret Fuller, who was portrayed as the talented improvisatrice (Brooks 98) by Julia Ward Howe in her Roman novel The Hermaphrodite. This unfinished novel, based upon the homonymous Graeco-Roman sculpture in Villa Borghese, was a sublime, fictional version of Fuller’s theory of the androgyny of the female genius (Daniele “Sandism in reverse”), and contributed to make of the Roman community of the American expatriates a lively scene of genderplay, also evoked—as Ralph Poole suggests in this collection—in the unsuspected reversal of sexual roles enacted in Alcott’s narratives.

26Within her Fourierist and gender-troubled Roman circle, Hosmer’s brisk, celibate style and her solitary night excursions could not go unnoticed. Her lighthearted and capering spirit, along with her childish look and her apparent “aesthetic naivety” (Brooks 108), naturally protected her from any possible assaults or social stigmas, exactly like Alcott’s minute but willful “little women.” In her candor and intrepid defiance, Hosmer paved the way to the creation of Jo March, being as laborious, modest, defiant and stubbornly celibate as Alcott’s most famous character. Tuckerman detects in Hosmer an unusual “strength of purpose” linked to the flamboyant, exuberant forms that the sculptors of Puritan origin absorbed from the baroque decorations of the Catholic churches in Rome. This made of her an icon of unbridled female freedom which essentially transcended any religious prejudice and class barrier, given her nonchalant negotiations with her aristocratic patrons. Intensely alive as Alcott’s most celebrated heroine, Hosmer explored the green surroundings of the Eternal City, never sharing the ingrained hostility of her fellow expatriates to the Papal State. Similarly, Hosmer’s admirer and mentor in Rome William Wetmore Story, whose alter-ego is united in a companionate marriage with the sculptress in Alcott’s Diana & Persis, commented in a 1848 letter to his friend James Russell Lowell, “How shall I ever again endure the restraint and bondage of Boston?…. There is no such thing as flesh and blood we love nothing, we criticize nothing. The sky itself is hard and distant. The heart grows into stone” (Story qtd. in Brooks 100).

27Not far from where the Alcott sisters briefly resided, among the art attractions sought by the American travelers in Rome, was Guido Reni’s painting of Beatrice Cenci in Palazzo Barberini. William Wetmore Story effectively describes her “with her white turban and red eyes” in Roba di Roma (135), one of the books he wrote on the Roman artworld and dutifully quoted by Louisa May in her sketch based on her Roman journey (“Recent Exciting Scenes in Rome” 198).

28The Cenci Palace is, instead, located downtown, in the Piazza delle Cinque Scole in the Jewish Ghetto near the Tiber, where the Seminar’s group had its closing dinner in the flavors of the local cuisine. In The Marble Faun, the quivering Hilda enters that palace, in a haunting portrait suggested by Guido’s compassionate vision of the imprisoned Beatrice, currently exhibited at the Museo Barberini. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer so admired that painting that it inspired her 1857 “Beatrice Cenci Asleep in her Cell,” unanimously considered her best marble statue.

29The young aristocratic parricide, to whom Shelley attributed the pure qualities perfectly captured by Hosmer’s sculpture, made of Cenci a symbol of domestic violence cherished by Italian feminists in 1970s. Beheaded in Castel Sant’Angelo for the murder of her abusive father, Cenci’s public execution was considered by Protestant visitors the expression of a dark conspiracy of Roman Catholics, contributing to make of the myth of Beatrice Cenci, lyrically rendered by Robert Browning, a favorite subject for American sculptors and literati, including the first-generation literary sculptor Horatio Greenough. The latter had settled in Florence in 1825, along with the Swedenborgian Hiram Powers, who also chose not to live in the Pontifical City of Rome, as “a consistent Republican…. True to his American principles, he recognized no aristocracy but that of nature” (Tuckerman 273, 275). As Brooks recalls, he was “the pioneer, the earliest of all the aspiring brood first arrived in Rome in 1825, and there he lived for several months in the former home of Claude Lorrain, near those of Salvador Rosa and Nicolas Poussin.” Lorrain, who was pivotal in the growth of the Hudson River school of painting of Thomas Cole, lived in the nearby strada Felice in his four years in Rome (1831-1835). There he occupied a little studio with Poussin where Thorvaldsen “modeled when not engaged in his large studio in the Barberini coach-houses” (Brooks 43).

  • 15 In her studio, Lander proudly exhibited the famous Virginia Dare, of life size, the first person bo (...)

30Our itinerary— designed to track down the neglected legacy of the American literary sculptors in Rome—paused for a while in 38 via Gregoriana to identify the building where the cross-dressed diva Charlotte Cushman lived with a talented group of women artists. As a matter of fact, the very first American woman sculptor in Rome was the abolitionist and U.S. army nurse Miss Sarah Fisher Ames who, based upon a photograph, sculpted in 1866 a famous bust of Abraham Lincoln purchased by the U. S. Senate in 1868. But the real “catalyst to numerous women sculptors” in Rome (Thorp 109) was Charlotte Cushman, whose non-conformist art community was comparable in style to the one established by Rosa Bonheur in Fontainebleau. In her Fourierist and utopian principles of social harmony adverse to marriage, Cushman and her protégée—the dexterous Harriet Hosmer—anticipated, in their cult of celibacy, Jo March’s rebellious and tomboyish postures. For years, she shared her home in 38 via Gregoriana with her sister Susan, who was also an actress, and famously played the role of Juliet when her cross-dressed sibling was Romeo. Susan Cushman was also the mother of Angelino, who was later adopted by his histrionic aunt after his father’s abandonment. That eccentric community of women artists led by the transcendentalist diva since 1858 (Tuckerman 4, ft. 13) lived independently in groups or in couples, establishing their own domestic rules, and circumventing social norms and conventional dress codes. After the derogative representation of Olive and Verena by Henry James in The Bostonians (1885), their long-term unions of creative laboriousness and mutual devotion were named “Boston marriages,” without being necessarily sexually, romantically, or erotically determined (Smith-Rosenberg 175). The women, unusually freed within these female bonds, left behind them little documentation on the nature of their relationships, and mostly preferred to consign their letters to the flames or to excise, cross out or cut out their private passages, as Whitney and Alcott also did. As Whitney’s biographer aptly concludes, “[w]hether these relationships were sexual or not is unclear. Of greater importance was the freedom they gave women to live the life they wanted, outside of masculine control” (2014). What is unquestioned is that the grand tour in Europe secured to these ambitious women the education they needed to fulfill their professional aspirations, in a land filled with natural beauty and art treasures which allowed a certain amount of sexual permissiveness. The beautiful Louisa Lander, who was mentored by Thomas Crawford and established her independent studio on the first floor of 57 via della Frezza, was involved in a sexual scandal which eventually alienated her from the American colony of women artists, forcing her to leave the Capital and retreat in her native Salem where she died unrecognized.15 The author of a famous marble bust of Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1858 (Concord Public Library), Lander used to wear a little-foraging cap, and was portrayed in the Italian Notebooks as a woman living in an outrageous state of unbridled freedom, “in almost perfect independence, thousands of miles from her New England, going fearlessly about these mysterious streets, by night as well as by day; with no household ties, no rule or law but that within her, yet acting with quietness and simplicity” (Hawthorne qtd. in Thorp 91).

31Even Hosmer led the unconventional life enjoyed by her fellow expatriates, and was excluded from Cushman’s patronage when the powerful prima donna of the Victorian stage replaced her with the New Yorker Emma Stebbins in 1865 (Milroy). The small but powerful sculptress was therefore forced to move her dwellings to the Ripetta area downtown, closer to John Gibson’s studio and to his courtyard where she had worked for a long time. Her marble creations were relocated in 26 via Quattro Fontane, where a replica of her Fountain of the Sirens or Lady Marian Alford (1861) can still be admired today, also featured in the famous photograph of the “little woman” Harriet, surrounded by her collective of sturdy collaborators and stone cutters (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, reproduced in Sherwood 1991 257).

32Emma Stebbins’s sculptural achievements were also remarkable, starting from the famous “Angels of the Waters” (1862), the Fountain in Central Park, “the pool of Bethesda” (Tuckerman 693) recently celebrated by playwright Tony Kushner in Angels in America (1991). Cushman also extended her patronage to the cameo-sculptor and shell-engraver from Vermont Margaret Foley, who operated at 42, via Margutta from 1858 to 1876. At number 33 of the same street, where many art studios were located, the Bostonian Frederic Crowninshield gave landscape painting classes to May Alcott. There she could refine her picturesque style, in the Roman eternal conflict between nature and culture which, according to James Russell Lowell, made time “to him of no accountface to face with the ancients there” (Brooks 129).

33Gender critics today tend to attribute rigid sexual boundaries to women’s partnership in Victorian times, but the artists affiliated to the innovative circle led by Cushman also included married painters like Florence Freeman, who had resided in the same building occupied by Crowninshield in via Margutta with her husband James Edward Freeman since 1836 (Bonfigli 65). Among the other married sculptresses who joined that creative sisterhood, Vinnie Ream Hoxie conceived and completed the imposing memorial statue of President Abraham Lincoln, unveiled in 1871 in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, and offered Hawthorne one of his living models for Hilda, due to the white doves flying “about her studio and perched on her shoulder” (Brooks 139).

  • 16 The empress of Russia commissioned a “Bride”’ sculpture from Giovanni Strazza, and her husband comm (...)

34The liberal style of the American literary sculptresses in Rome opened them to direct interaction in their studios with their clients, artisans, and local artists. Alcott represents this informal exchange in the emancipated lifestyle of the two arty travelers portrayed between Paris and Rome in Diana & Persis. Bonfigli’s guide also presents a truly cosmopolitan art setting inhabited by Italians, Belgians, Polish, Danish, Mexicans, French, Germans, Spanish, Swiss, Prussians and Russian artists. Their patrons were also international, although many came from the clergy and Roman aristocrats like Prince Borghese who often commissioned Adamo Tadolini (23).16

2. The Caffé Greco and the Art District of the Corso

  • 17 A trace of the contribution of the sculptors based in Rome to the patriots’ fight is found in the c (...)
  • 18 The void left by Thomas Crawford’s untimely death was partially filled by the American William Rine (...)

35Not far from the Fontana di Trevi and from the St. Luke’s Academy, passing Piazza Poli where Hawthorne started writing The Marble Faun in the winter of 1858-59, two generations of American literary sculptors used to convene at the Antico Caffé Greco in via Condotti, which was the first meeting-place where any foreign artist “day after day and year after year… meets his brother-artists and persons of culture and refinement” (Freeman 11). Under the painted arched ceilings of the three rooms of the Caffé, open since 1760, Joshua Reynolds, John Flaxman, Benjamin West, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Claude Joseph Vernet, Peter von Cornelius, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Samuel Morse, John Vanderlyn, Thomas Crawford gathered with rich and poor artists, literati and insurgents, bypassing the strict surveillance of the “pontifical police” and animating one of the most cosmopolitan venues in town.17 With its wooden mailbox and alcove (the so called “Omnibus”), throughout time the Caffé was the perfect place where Washington Allston could reach Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Washington Irving could join Mme. de Staël then at work on Corinne; John Gibson had breakfast with his pupil Hosmer; Thomas Crawford and Thomas Cole met the pupil of Canova Richard James Wyatt, and the sculptors from via Margutta C. B. Ives and John Randolph Rogers discussed Crawford’s substitution when an eye tumor prevented him from completing his last sculptural works. Among the other sophisticated customers, William Henry Rinehart (who authored Shelley’s sepulchre in the Protestant cemetery in Rome);18 J. M. W. Turner, whose paintings were skillfully copied by May Alcott; the New England sculptors Paul Akers and his countryman Edward Sheffield Bartholomew never failed to gather when they came to the city in 1850. Art-loving writers like Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, William Makepeace Thackeray also sat in conversation next to the scrawny Hans Christian Andersen, who lived at the corner of the strada Felice (the current via Sistina). And the journalist and photographer Henrietta Stackpole, who came to Rome to study Italian women, also frequented the Caffé (Tufts 160), later featured in Portrait of a Lady by Henry James with her inseparable camera.

36The Seminar’s group crossed the corridor of those crowded tables, too packed to find a seat, and floated through the dense flavor of invigorating cups of coffee. In the “fragrant smoke and light-hearted chat of this unique rendezvous” (Tuckerman 205), we browsed the lithographs, photographs, and paintings in the style of the Barbizon school hanging on the walls of the Caffé Greco, the latter being almost as old as the Florian in Venice and the Caffé Doney in Florence, where Horatio Greenough used to meet the patriot Piero Maroncelli. Like many Italian liberals, he joined the Fourierist experiments in America, writing another important chapter of the Italian Risorgimento abroad.

37The Antico Caffé Greco in Rome, along with the nearby trattoria Lepre, located just in front of it, were the venues where Horatio Greenough freely conversed with Washington Allston’s teacher Samuel F. B. Morse; James Fenimore Cooper had coffee with the Polish patriot Adam Mickiewicz before riding together in the Campagna (Freeman 114), in a convivial atmosphere where travelers of all languages and backgrounds always found an American and English table.

  • 19 On the art schools in Rome, which included the French Academy already located in the old Medician v (...)
  • 20 The comic contrast between the naiveté of these non-professional models and the loftiness of the hi (...)

38On the nearby Corso, similarly to the Parisian ateliers, the Roman art schools in via Margutta were not only subjected to political surveillance but also to the suspicious control of the local clergy. In those schools, women could paint and sketch from living and nude figures regardless of the restrictions of their Puritan background.19 Although not exempted from sexual harassment, as May Alcott grimly recalls in her Studying Art Abroad, women apprentices in Rome could paint and sculpt from the scantily dressed (Sherwood 177) and “nude models at the French Academy in Rome” (Tuckerman 307). Their models were selected among the loiterers on the Spanish Steps, within a short radius from the main artists’ studios (Brooks 173) but also among peasants from the nearby Campagna willing to pose in Roman tunics.20 And since the sculpting process involved, beside the sketched plans of the statues and clay-modelling, casts in plaster to preserve them as finished creations—any sculpture required promiscuous collaborations with local artisans. The intermediate stage of clay-modeling appears in Alcott’s “Psyche’s Art,” in the sculptural atelier of the protagonist, with modeled forms disconsolately waiting in plaster for a patron willing to cast them into the expensive Carrara marble. And since few artists in the Eternal City could afford marble without a private or public commission, clay became the metaphor for the unfinished artwork, in a time in which completed marble statues were proudly displayed in America as rarities and true world’s wonders in vaudevilles and the “dime museum” of P. T. Barnum.

  • 21 In Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books, Nathaniel Hawthorne thus describes the process (...)
  • 22 The new studio of the sculptor J. Mozier, who arrived in Rome in 1845, was located in the Patrizi B (...)

39Needless to say, the open access of potential patrons to most artists’ studios facilitated the necessary commissions to hand casts over to marble carvers or bronze casters in order to complete the sculpture.21 Apart from Anne Whitney who carved with her chisel by herself, most American women sculptors established close artistic fellowships with the stone cutters and other local artisans who carved the marble based on their models. Hosmer’s primacy, photographed in via Quattro Fontane, among all those larger, skilled male collaborators, was called into question by her rival and detractor Joseph Mozier, who charged her with letting those artisans design and materially co-author her best works.22 Hosmer immediately rejected the accusation and sued him for libel.

  • 23 This is not the place for listing the many American painters active in Rome in the heyday of Roman (...)
  • 24 He exhibited in his studio a depiction of Tobias taking leave of his parents accompanied by the Ang (...)

40Artists’ studios open for potential patrons certainly made an integrated art scene which also included painters, discussed in detail in Tuckerman’s Book of the Artists (1867). As Bonfigli explains, in order to facilitate commissions, painters like May Alcott—who produced the copies of Turner most praised by Ruskin—also worked as copyists for the tourist market, sketching rural environs and Roman galleries, and imitating the Old Masters of the early Tuscan school.23 In order to pay for their art projects, many artists also gave classes to prospective artists, like those attended by May Alcott in via Margutta, where our group stopped for a while. Art students’ manuals like John James Chapman’s On the Elementary Principles of Art were available at the local Monaldini’s English Library. He also wrote “The Return from Vintage” in his studio on the highest floor of 135, via del Babuino, not far from number 144 where the American landscape painter, Joseph Ropes, lived on the upper floor (Bonfigli 31). The German watercolorist Rodolphe Müller, who taught May in Boston, was active in the city about to become the Italian Capital, in 95, via del Lavatore (85), not far from 23A, via Margutta, where the studio of the American portrait and historical painter Luther Terry was located. Terry was the second husband of Thomas Crawford’s wife, Louisa Ward, and the stepfather of Francis Marion Crawford, who became a popular writer respected by Alcott.24

  • 25 Tenerani’s studio was in the Barberini area in 40 vicolo delle Colonnette. It featured a famous rec (...)
  • 26 Bonfigli’s Guide listed, in Tadolini’s studio, the group of Ganymede and Jupiter, transformed into (...)

41The walking tour dispersed at the atelier of the famous sculptor Adamo Tadolini from San Marino (78), who is considered one of the true heirs of Canova, along with the other member of the Academy of St. Luke, Piero Tenerani from Carrara (31).25 Tadolini’s atelier, located at number 150A, via del Babuino, is still open and serves refreshments in a spectacular restaurant where we convivially ended our tour, surrounded by the sculptor’s majestic statues in plaster and marble dutifully listed by Bonfigli (31-2).26

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Alcott, Louisa May. “Recent Exciting Scenes in Rome,” dated in epistolary form on December 29, 1870. Rpt. in The Sketches of Louisa May Alcott, edited by Gregory Eiselein, Ironweed, 2001, pp. 193-199.

---. “Countess Varazoff.” 1878. Rpt. in Unmasked. Collected Thrillers, edited by Madeleine Stern, Northestern UP, 1995, pp. 638-647.

Alcott, May Nieriker. Studying Art Abroad, and How to Do It Cheaply. Roberts, 1879.

Bonfigli, F. Salverio. Guide to the Studios in Rome with Much Supplementary Information. Tipografia Legale. No. 19 Via delle Convertite, 1860.

Brooks, Van Wyck. The Dream of Arcadia. American Artists and Writers in Italy 1760-1915. Dutton, 1958.

Caws, Mary Ann. Creative Gatherings. Meeting Places of Modernism. Reaktion Books, 2019.

Contenti, Alessandra. Esercizi di nostalgia. La Roma sparita di Francis Marion Crawford. Archivio Izzi, 1992.

Cooper, James Fenimore. Gleanings in Europe: Italy, edited by J. Conron and C. Ayers Denne, SUNY P, 1979.

Culkin, Kate. Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography. Massachusetts UP, 2010.

Dabakis, Melissa. A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome. Pennsylvania State UP, 2014.

Daniele, Daniela. “In Canova’s Traces: Thomas Crawford, American Sculptor in Rome.” A Hundred Years After: New Light on Francis Marion Crawford, edited by Gordon M. Poole. Franco Di Mauro, 2011, pp. 127-142.

---. “Sandism in reverse: the strange, marmorean beauty of Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite.” The Victorian Web. Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria. April 2013.

Ellet, Mrs. Elizabeth Fries. Women Artists in all Ages and Countries. Harper, 1859.

Fiorentino, Daniele. Gli Stati Uniti e il Risorgimento (1848-1901). Gangemi, 2014.

---. “Non proprio un modello: gli Stati Uniti nel movimento risorgimentale italiano,” Laboratoire italien, no. 19, 2017.

Freeman, James Edward. Gatherings from an Artist’s Portfolio. D. Appleton, 1877.

Genesio, Laura, ed. Carteggio Verdi-Luccardi.1844-1876, edited by L. Genesio, Instituto Nazionale Studi Verdiani, 2008.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Marble Faun, or The Romance of Monte Beni. 1859. With an afterword by Murry Krieger. New American Library, 1961.

---. The Complete Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Houghton Mifflin, 1882.

Honig Fine, Elsa. Women & Art. A History of Women Painters and Sculptors from the Renaissance to the 20th Century. Allanheld & Schram, 1978.

Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue. Harriet Hosmer. Letters and Memoirs, edited by Cornelia Carr, Moffat, Yard & Co, 1912.

James, Henry Jr. William Wetmore Story and His Friends. Houghton Mifflin, 1903, vol. 1.

Jameson, Anna. Sacred and Legendary Art. Vol I. Containing Legends of the Angels ad Archangels, the Evangelist, the Apostles, the Doctors of the Church, and St. Mary Madgalene, as Represented in the Fine Arts. Longmans, Green, and Co, vol. IV, 1848.

Liverani, Monsignor Francesco. Il Papato, l’Impero e il Regno d’Italia. Prelato domestico e protonotario della Santa Sede. Second Edition. Barbèra Memoria, 1861.

Ludovici, Paola and Biancamaria Pisapia, eds. Americans in Rome: 1764-1870. Rome with Hawthorne and James. Centro Studi Americani, 1984.

Milroy, Elizabeth. “The Public Career of Emma Stebbins: Works in Marble.” Archives of American Art Journal, vol. 33, no. 3, 1993, pp. 2-12.

Mariani, Andrea. “Arcadia Perennis: un topos della letteratura americana, dall’Ottocento al Novecento.” Itinerari 27, 1988, pp. 141-154.

---. “Artisti e scrittori americani a Roma.” Studi romani, vol. 38, nos. 3-4, 1990, pp. 485-497.

McGuigan, Mary K. “‘This Market of Physiognomy’: American Artists and Rome’s Art Academies, Life Schools, and Models, 1825-1870.” America’s Rome: Artists in the Eternal City, 1800-1900, edited by Paul. S. D’Ambrosio, Fenimore Art Museum, 2009, pp. 39-69.

Moncada, Valentina di Paternò, ed., Atelier a via Margutta. Cinque secoli di cultura internazionale a Roma. Umberto Allemandi, 2012.

Musacchio, Jacqueline Marie. “Mapping the White Marmorean Flock: Anne Whitney Abroad. 1867-1868.” Digital Humanities and Art History, vol. 13, no. 2, 2014. abroad#_ednref27

Napoli, C. Le Biennali Borboniche. Le Esposizioni di Belle Arti nel Real Museo Borbonico dal 1826 al 1859. Rezzoaglio 2009.

Porter, James A. Modern Negro Art. With Eighty-Five Halftone Plates. Arno-New York Times, 1969.

Salenius, Sirpa. Sculptors, Painters, and Italy: Italian Influence in Nineteenth-Century American Art. Il Prato, 2009.

Sherwood, Dolly. Harriet Hosmer, American Sculptor (1830-1980). Missouri U.P., 1991.

Smith-Rosenberg, Carol. “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America.” Signs, vol. 1, no.1, Autumn 1975, pp. 1-29.

Stern, Madeleine B. Louisa May Alcott. A Biography. 1950. Random House, 1996.

Surdi, Alessandra Pinto. “Diari e manoscritti di viaggiatori in Italia nelle biblioteche statunitensi.” Part II of the Bollettino del CIRVI, edited by Luigi Monga, vol. 9, no. 17, 1988, pp. 169-174.

Surdi, Alessandra Pinto. “Viaggiatori americani in Italia fino al 1870. Saggio bibliografico.” Il Veltro, vol. 38, nos. 3-4 (May-August 1994), pp. 115-122.

Surdi, Alessandra Pinto, and Cristian Penteriani Rossetti, eds., Americans in Rome 1864-1870. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Exhibition Held in the Palazzo Antici-Mattei on the Occasion of the Conference of the European Association for American Studies, with an afterward by Michèle Rivas, Univ. of Paris-Dauphine, in collaboration with the Gabinetto Vieusseux in Florence. Centro Studi Americani, April 1984.

Taft, Lorado. The History of American Sculpture. Macmillan, 1903.

Thorp, Margaret Farrand. The Literary Sculptors. Duke U.P., 1965.

Tufts, Eleanor. Our Hidden Heritage. Five Centuries of Women Artists. Paddington Press, 1975.

Tuckerman, Henry. Book of the Artists. American Artist Life. Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists; preceded by an historical account of the rise and progress of Art in America. G. P. Putnam, 1867.

Willis, Nathaniel Parker. “Talks over Travel.” Famous Persons and Places. Scribner, 1854.

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1 “Below the Pincio, Thorvaldsen lived, in Piranesi’s old house, with block of marble lying about in the great studio garden, overgrown with aloe, mallows and wild roses the reigning sculptor since the death of Canova in 1822, carried on the style of the Greek revival, with the repose and serenity that Canova had reintroduced. In his search for Greek simplicity and beauty” (Brooks 43).

2 Crawford’s renowned studio is thus described by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books: “we went to the Piazza di Termini, near the Baths of Diocletian, and found our way with some difficulty to Crawford’s studio. It occupies several great rooms, connected with the offices of the Villa Negroni; and all these rooms were full of plaster casts and a few works in marble,—principally portions of his huge Washington Monument, which he left unfinished at his death…. There were also casts of statues that seemed to be intended for some other monument referring to Revolutionary times and personages; and with these were intermixed some ideal statues or groups—a naked boy playing marbles, very beautiful; a girl with flowers; the cast of his Orpheus, of which long ago I saw the marble statue; Adam and Eve; Flora,—all with a good deal of merit, no doubt his Orpheus is quite as good as anything else we saw in his studio. People were at work chiseling several statues in marble from the plaster model…. It is rather sad to think that Crawford died before he could see his ideas in the marble, where they gleam with so pure and celestial a light compared with the plaster. There is almost as much difference as between flesh and spirit. The floor of one of the rooms was burdened with immense packages, containing parts of the Washington Monument, ready to be forwarded to its destination. When finished, and set up, it will probably make a very splendid appearance, but its height, its mass, its skillful execution; and will produce a moral effect though its images of illustrious men, and the associations that connect it with our Revolutionary history” (1882, X, 124-26). A full description of the beautiful home of Thomas Crawford is offered by Van Wyck Brooks: “Crawford, however, had days of glory in the forties and fifties in Rome, where he employed an army of marble-cutters and where he occupied twelve studios that he was permitted to build among the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. The studios, long and low, crowded with statues and busts, were called a whispering gallery where kings and queens and public men of all shades of political opinion met on this aesthetic neutral ground, so that Francis Marion Crawford, the novelist, who was a child when his father died, had known something of patrician Rome almost from birth. Thomas Crawford, who had married a banker’s daughter from New York, might have been called rich in his own right, and he occupied the second story of the great Villa Negroni as a tenant of Prince Massimo, who lived below him…. The summer-house over the gateway had been Joseph Severn’s studio, and there Keats and Shelley had both come to visit him, while beyond was a wild waste of open fields and broken land leading to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The spot where Crawford lived and worked, and where his son Marion played as a boy, was covered in after years by the great railway station that Mussolini rebuilt in the nineteen-twenties; but in those days it was far out in the country. On moonlight nights the children saw foxes from the Campagna drinking from the basin of the marble fountain in the garden” (89-90).

3 “Our friends breakfast immediately with the Crawfords at Villa Negroni, where the irrepressible Margaret again joins them” (James 1903 115).

4 Gibson’s atelier was located in 4 via del Babuino at the intersection of via della Fontanella and via del Babuino and featured a portrait statue of H. M. Queen Victoria designed for Buckingham Palace; a Zephyrs created for Prince Torlonia; a sitting statue of H. M. Queen Victoria, with Justice and Clemency, for the Parliament House; the statue of a wounded Amazon for Lord Grosvenor; a group of Hylas and two nymphs; a statue of Pandora of natural size executed for Lady Marion Alford; and a Cupid drawing an arrow from his quiver (Bonfigli 34).

5 On the artwork of the literary sculptresses in Rome see Mrs. Elizabeth Fries Ellet; Elsa Honig Fine; Eleanor Tufts, Sirpa Salenius and, more recently, Melissa Dabakis.

6 As Michèle Rivas points out, “Foreigners shunned the Borgo, the Trastevere, and the Campo Marzio along the river and settled on higher ground, in this area reputedly free from malaria. Triangular in shape, it was bounded by the piazza di Spagna, the via del Babuino, the piazza del Popolo, the modern via Sistina and its then extension, the via Felice” (1984 8).

7 “Harriet had brought Browning’s poems in her travelling-bag, and she persuaded the poet to read aloud the whole of his poem Saul” (Brooks 107).

8 As Lydia Maria Child recalled, “It was her womanly modesty, her manly courage, and her intellectual tastes, which first attracted Miss Hosmer toward Zenobia,” Letter to the Boston Transcript (Hosmer 192).

9 Martha Saxton reminded me that, in The Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne called his Margaret Fuller-like character “Zenobia.”

10 The separate room that Hosmer occupied in her mentor’s Mr. Gibson’s studio between the via del Corso and the via del Babuino featured, for the delight of her visitors, “two bas-reliefs representing the rising and the setting of the Stars; the Sepulchral monument to the memory of Miss Falconet, which had been raised in the Church of S. Andrea delle Fratte; a recumbent figure, of full length, representing Beatrice Cenci; Puck, the well-known mischievous boy as we read of in Longfellow’s poems, executed for H. R. H. the Prince of Wales” (Bonfigli 35).

11 “After the fall of the kingdom of Naples, the queen sat for her in Rome, and she spent a week at the castle in Germany where the king and queen lived, playing chess every evening with the deplorable ‘Bomba’” (Brooks 108).

12 See C. Napoli on the Educandato de’ miracoli where poor and wealthy orphaned girls were moved from “Real Regina Carolina” founded by Joseph Bonaparte in Aversa to the “Educandato Regina Isabella di Borbone” inaugurated by Queen Isabella, who also resided there for a while.

13 Not far from Story’s small theater on the first floor of 13 via di S. Basilio, the American landscape painter Tilten J. Rollin had his working space and, further on, the other American landscape painter, Virgil Williams’s, at 40 Piazza Barberini.

14 “With the Crawfords and his old friends the Storys, he went on picnics to Hadrian’s Villa, where they sat on the warm stones and lunched in the shadow of the walls; and in Story’s little theatre he made his debut on the stage, in the Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Bottom the Weaver” (Brooks 129).

15 In her studio, Lander proudly exhibited the famous Virginia Dare, of life size, the first person born of English parents in America; an Evangeline taken from Longfellow’s poems, sleeping after wanderings; an Elizabeth of Siberia; an Undine rising from the fountain; a sylph and a number of busts and bas-reliefs (Bonfigli 52).

16 The empress of Russia commissioned a “Bride”’ sculpture from Giovanni Strazza, and her husband commissioned the life-size statue “The First Thought of Love” from Vincenzo Luccardi (Bonfigli 54, 47).

17 A trace of the contribution of the sculptors based in Rome to the patriots’ fight is found in the correspondence of the sculptor Vincenzo Luccardi from Udine and Giuseppe Verdi (Genesio, ed.). Luccardi’s studio in the Patrizi Buildings of the New Studios in via Margutta featured a sculpture of Beatrice Cenci and of Hagar in the desert (Bonfigli 23-24). Bonfigli’s catalogue stresses the proximity of local and international artists, listing the artworks that visitors could see in each atelier, often reproducing subjects from the Italian Risorgimento and the related battlefields. Let us think of the historical painter Achille Mazzotti from Rome who exhibited at 27 Vicolo of Gesù e Maria “Fanfulla’s return to the military life, “a subject taken from the historical romance “Niccolò de’ Lapi “ by Massimo D’Azeglio ( 40) or the work of Achille Stocchi whose nearby studio, in 28 Vicolo di Gesù e Maria, featured a colossal bust of Napoleon II, “A group of heroic size,” representing Ettore Fieramosca with his rival La Motte at his feet, a subject based on the historical romance La Disfida di Barletta by Massimo D’Azeglio” (41). On the American role in the Italian Risorgimento see Fiorentino 2014 and 2017.

18 The void left by Thomas Crawford’s untimely death was partially filled by the American William Rinehart, who lived at number 17 of via delle Quattro Fontane, and made his fortune in 1859 with a beautiful sculpture of Sleeping Children imitated by Harriet Hosmer.

19 On the art schools in Rome, which included the French Academy already located in the old Medician villa see McGuigan.

20 The comic contrast between the naiveté of these non-professional models and the loftiness of the historical and mythological and ancient figures which they embodied was thus satirized by Nathaniel Parker Willis: “The ragged and proverbially ill-dressed peasants who are selected from the whole Campagna, to the Sculptors of Rome, care little what is thought of their good looks in the Corso. The disguised proportions beneath their rags will be admired in deathless marble, when the noble who scarce-deigns their possessor a look will lie in forgotten dust under his stone scutcheon” (293).

21 In Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books, Nathaniel Hawthorne thus describes the process during a visit to Thomas Crawford’s atelier: “People were at work chiseling several statues in marble from the plaster model,—a very interesting process, and what I should think a doubtful and hazardous one; but the artists say that there is no risk of mischief, and that the marble is sure to be accurately repeated in the marble. These persons, who do what is considered the mechanical part of the business, are often themselves sculptors, and of higher reputation than those who employ them” (Complete Works X: 124-26).

22 The new studio of the sculptor J. Mozier, who arrived in Rome in 1845, was located in the Patrizi Building in 5/c via Margutta, and featured a variety of subjects such as the group “The return of the prodigal son”; statues of the “Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,” of Pocahontas, of the Indian girl inspired to Bryant’s “Indian Girls Lament”; of Rebecca, of Truth represented as having struck the mask of Dissimulation; of Esther; of Tacita (“Silence”); and a group called “Rejected Addresses” (Bonfigli 22). Very close to his studio the one by the other renowned American sculptor Rogers Rodolph, located at the no. 53b of via Margutta, displayed a blind girl Nydia from Bulwer’s “Last Days of Pompeii,” in the act of running away from the city, with one hand to her ear, as if to catch the sound of trampling feet of the other fugitives; Ruth gleaning in the presence of Boaz; a boy skating on ice, or “The Truant.” His gates for the U. S. Capitol in Washington ready to be cast in bronze represented, in various compartments, the history of the life of Columbus; and the grand monument in progress of Washington (22-23). The later was conceived by Thomas Crawford, and assigned after his untimely death by his wife, Louisa Terry, to Rodolph, whom she trust to be the most suitable to complete the imposing work started by her husband, who remains to this day the greatest American literary sculptor.

23 This is not the place for listing the many American painters active in Rome in the heyday of Roman sculpture, but I here mention Sarah Fisher Clampitt Ames and the American sister painters Mary Elizabeth and Abigail Osgood Williams from Salem, better known as the Misses Williams, who lived to Italy from 1861 to 1872 and produced, apart from their original paintings, copies of masterpieces for the tourist market. A neighbor of Gibson, the English painter Sarah Crawner, settled with Gibson in the British section of the art district on the second floor of 6 via di Laurina. She made copies of the Maddalena of Correggio; of Titian’s Flora, of the Guido’s “Contemplation”; and of the celebrated “Transfiguration” by Raphael, serially reproduced on the second floor in 255 via del Corso by Giuseppe Mazzolini (Bonfigli 48). Crawner was the neighbor of the British historical and landscape painters William Boardman in 15 via de’ Greci, of Charles Poingdestre, at the number 36, first floor, n. 1, and of Glennie Arthur, on the 3rd floor of no. 43. The American C.B. Ives also opened his studio on the ground floor of 109 via Margutta, and in the courtyard of 39 via del Babuino, where the American historical painter and portrait artist William Page operated on the third floor (39, 27-28).

24 He exhibited in his studio a depiction of Tobias taking leave of his parents accompanied by the Angels, and Shakespearean creations from the Tempest and Romeo and Juliet.

25 Tenerani’s studio was in the Barberini area in 40 vicolo delle Colonnette. It featured a famous recumbent figure of a fainting Psyche, and other creations conceived for the Prince of Torlonia, Count Stephen Karolyi of Hungary, and Queen Victoria.

26 Bonfigli’s Guide listed, in Tadolini’s studio, the group of Ganymede and Jupiter, transformed into an eagle; the nymph Dygma, who invented the fishing net; Narcissus looking at his own image reflected in the fountain; a group of the goat Amalthea and Cupid playing with flowers, designed for H.H.H. the Count of Syracuse; a dancing Bacchante and Cupid accompanying her with the lyre, created for Prince Borghese; the heroic size of “The Hunter” in the act of hurling a spear, and unleashing his dog (31-2).

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Electronic reference

Daniele Pomilio, The American Literary Sculptors: A Map of the Roman StudiosEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 17-3 | 2022, Online since 27 October 2022, connection on 29 November 2022. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Daniele Pomilio

Daniele Pomilio specialized in video game design at Dams Roma3. He directed shorts (Ho sete, Riff independent Film Festival 2010; Civilization, VisualFest 2016); a mockumentary (Bunker, Horror Film Festival 2013); and the documentary Bill Berkson and the Art Park (Mimesis 2019). He is the author of La Règle du Jeu. I videogiochi tra cultura e design (Mimesis, 2021) and his essays on film, photography and visual culture appeared in RIAS, Sinestesie, Zeta.

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Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International - CC BY-NC 4.0

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