At ItalyIndeed we pride ourselves on promoting local artistic and cultural events such as this weekend’s conference on Juana Romani, to be held at the Académie Vitti Museum in Atina. Born Carolina Carlesimo in 1867 in the town of Velletri to Giacinto Carlesimo of Casalvieri and Mariangela Tullio of Gallinaro, she would rise to the élite of Parisian artistic circles. Her journey started when her mother began an affair with Temistocle Romani, a prominent local land-owner. Discovering the affair, Carolina’s father burnt down one of Romani’s stables before being found dead in mysterious circumstances. With her mother and Romani, Carolina settled in Paris’ Latin Quarter in 1877. In time she began to frequent various artistic and intellectual circles, and when the family became impoverished, she started modelling. Starting at Académie Colarossi, (founded by Filippo Colarossi of Picinisco, one of the few studios that admitted female students), she posed for noted artists of the day, like Alexandre Falguière and Jean-Jacques Henner.
Crucially, it was with Henner that she began painting herself. Taking inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites, Symbolism, Aestheticism and Impressionism, she eluded both the classical academic style and the emerging avant-garde to present an artistic vision characterized by an exaggerated feminism focusing on women and Italy. She befriended the likes of Yvette Guilbert, (Toulouse-Lautrec’s muse), Italian model Anna Caira, and Antoine Lumière, father of the famous brothers, whom she taught to paint. From 1888-1904 she flourished in the loftiest circles of Parisian art. Amongst her most noted works are ‘La fille de Teodora’ and ‘Salomé’. She exhibited at the Universal Expositions of 1889, (winning the silver medal for which certification can be seen at the Académie Vitti Museum), and 1900. In 1901 she hosted the Lumière brothers in Velletri who gave the town a projector which facilitated the opening of one of Italy’s first cinemas. She also donated 5000 lire to an art school in the town which still bears her name today. Sadly, in time, a combination of prejudice, savaging by Italian critics and her own mental frailties led to Romani being committed to a Parisian sanatorium where she died in 1924.