Sunday, June 15, 2008

Antonio Corsi

Antonio CorsiNOTE: This post was first published in my other blog, choosing-santa-fe.blogspot.com, on February 15, 2008.

This is a story about a man who was very well-known in the first quarter of the 20th century, but whom very few have heard of today. He was an artist's model (and a silent-film actor towards the end of his career) who worked in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, among other cities, and was the most sought-after artist's model of the day.

Although he was Italian-born, his Roman nose and exotic looks made him able to pass as a Turk, a Mexican, an American Indian, and a variety of other ethnicities. He maintained a studio in New York City with hundreds of costumes and could show up as any character an artist could imagine.

If you live(d) in Boston, you will have seen Corsi in many different settings. For example, he was the model for the famous Appeal to the Great Spirit sculpture by Cyrus Dallin, which has stood on Huntington Avenue in front of the Museum of Fine Arts for 99 years.
Appeal to the Great Spirit, Cyrus Dallin, Boston
He also posed for 11 of the 16 figures in John Singer Sargent's Frieze of Prophets, which is one of the murals Sargent painted in the Boston Public Library (all of which I saw for the first time on a trip back to Boston last fall).

I encountered Corsi for the first time in the pages of a family diary from 1905. Cynthia, the young woman writer (who was 22 at the time), was living in Boston and studying at the Eric Pape School of Art. Twice she mentions a model in class by the name of Antonio Corsi. For example, here's her post from March 20, 1905:

Raining today; went in school. Antonio Corsi posed nude this morning, costume of pirate in afternoon.

That brief sentence intrigued me! I had to look him up, and was quite amazed to discover the level of his fame, and the prodigious amount of posing he did. Here's a photo of Corsi posing for an art class at about the same time as the diary. Imagine holding that pose for hours!
Antonio Corsi posing for art class

Pierre-Auguste Cot, The Storm, Antonio CorsiHere's another famous painting for which Corsi posed, The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot (owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC). Corsi was 11 or 12 at the time, and posed for both the male and female figures in this painting. (Look at the calves, thighs, and feet of both characters--they are almost identical.)

When I started researching Corsi, I immediately found a website dedicated to his work. Jake Gorst, owner of Jonamac Productions, is working on a documentary on Corsi, along with an exhibition of a treasure-trove of photographs (including those appearing in this post), and a book about Corsi's career. You can learn lots more about Corsi at this site--click the Multimedia tab to see all the photographs!

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this true that Antonio Corsi was only model. Some one told me that hi paint by him self. Some body have his painting with his signature. Can be this true?
THe painting show the buildings looks like in Europ (Itally)
Zyta

SantaFeKate said...

Zyta--I don't know about that. You might try contacting jake@antoniocorsi.com--he might have more information, or be interested in learning about the painting.

art lover said...

Hi,

Do you know if the documentary on Corsi was ever released?

Thanks.

SantaFeKate said...

I don't believe it has been released. The website (antoniocorsi.com) still calls for a 2010 date.

jgorst said...

The film is still in production as of this date. More information will be available later in 2011.

SantaFeKate said...

Jake--thanks for the update! We'll look forward to hearing more.....

Vincent Collazo said...

I don't think Corsi posed for "The Storm" by Pierre-Auguste Cot, as is claimed on this site. Aside from the fact that the young man appears well beyond the 11 or 12 years old that Corsi would have been in 1880, Cot's painting "Springtime" used the same two "characters" and this was done in 1873, when Corsi was only 5 years old. It's probable that Cot had to use two new "stand-ins" for his second painting, as seven years had elapsed, but it seems doubtful it was Corsi. I'd be curious to see any documentation on who the models were.

SantaFeKate said...

Vincent--thanks for your comment! From my point of view the characterization of the model as 12 years old at the time works for me. My information was from Jake Gorst's website http://www.antoniocorsi.com/gallery/19.html
Jake is working on a documentary about Corsi, and you'd have to ask him the source of his information--but his material seems very well-researched.

B said...

I just saw your post on Boston's Paul Revere house from 2009. FA Goduti is my great granfather and is the gentleman in the far right of the photo.

SantaFeKate said...

B: Thanks so much for your post! I copied and pasted it to the Paul Revere post page so the information would be in the right place. Do you know when this picture was taken? I've seen various years in the early part of the last century. My interest, specifically, is in 1905. Do you, by any chance, have any diaries or correspondence from that year that might be of interest to me? I love first person accounts of life in Boston in that year.....

JGorst said...

That Corsi posed for "The Storm" is well documented in various periodicals of the period. We are currently fundraising to continue with production on the Corsi film. Visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonamac/corsi-the-worlds-first-male-supermodel-documentary for more info...

SantaFeKate said...

Jake--thanks for updating us on "The Storm" and on the progress of your film. My brother is a documentary filmmaker, just nearing the completion of a film after a 7-year process, so I know what an arduous task it is! Best of luck with your fundraising efforts.

JGorst said...

Thanks! With every turn in this process there is a new discovery. It takes time, but we are having so much fun.

Anonymous said...

Please let me known in what city in Itally he was born.

SantaFeKate said...

I don't know where Antonio was born--I know he was a gypsy....

Anonymous said...

I read in some information that he was born in Italy.I'm asking that, because I have the very, very old painting witch is sing like his signature in some his biografii.
I don't see the reson that some one use his signature to sign on the painting, because on this time he wasn't very feimos.The painting show some street in Italy, because in the back is roof of some Basilic

SantaFeKate said...

I don't know if he was a painter--would be interesting if he were! You might try contacting jake@antoniocorsi.com--he might have more information, or be interested in learning about the painting.

SantaFeKate said...

Just found a great paragraph about Corsi in an old book I'm reading about Providence history called "The Pageant of Benefit Street, down through the years" by Margaret Bingham Stillwell. The book was published in 1945, but Mrs. Stillwell by and large is recalling the Benefit Street of her youth. She writes about a fancy-dress ball that was held at the Rhode Island School of Design when they acquired the old Central Congregational Church, and made it over into an auditorium as Memorial Hall. (They acquired the building in 1903--not sure of the date of the ball.)


She writes: "Later, in an interval in the general dancing, there was a leap-frog dance, cleverly done by some of the boys who had made themselves wonderful heads and feet, and painted the essential, green markings on the backs of one another's tights. And, most thrilling of all under the spot-light were the poses taken by Corsi, a professional model who chanced to be at the school at the time. He had posed for Sargent's Prophets, I believe, and for Elijah falling from heaven. He was a striking man, with heavy dark hair, and bold features, and each pose that he assumed was held with dramatic finesse. In a cowl, he became lost in sombre meditation, remote from the world. With sombrero and danger, he was too convincing a cutthroat. In Indian attire, with a great headdress of feather, he stood motionless, a bronze statue looking into infinite space. Suddenly he dropped, every sense alert, every muscle taut, a panther ready for the kill."

GreenMountain Picker said...

hello I just did a small you tube clip about a piece of art I found if anyone was interested

https://youtu.be/AZSZ8zlFrkM

SantaFeKate said...

Green Mountain Picker--thanks so much for posting this video--so interesting! I keep tripping over Corsi everywhere I go--looking forward to seeing the documentary.

David P. said...

To Santa Fe Kate and all:

Antonio Corsi was born in Atina, Lazio, province of Frosione.

We visited Atina in July 2013 and attempted to get a copy of his birth certificate.
Was told to come back another day but time constraint did not allow.
In process of requesting copy via email.
Mr. Corsi was my great grandfather. Never met him, however.

Mr. Gorst has done much research. Many thanks to him.

Regards,

SantaFeKate said...

David--How wonderful to have such a fascinating ancestor as Antonio Corsi! I stumbled across him in a diary from my husband's grandmother, who was a painter, and had painted Corsi as a model. He seemed to have touched so many lives!

David P. said...

To SantaFeKate

Yes it is wonderful and fascinating. I also am excited by your fascination for Antonio Corsi and you many contributions to this blog.

I understand he died in Los Angeles in 1924, so my Dad was only 4 at the time so unlikely that he ever met his Nonno (grandpa). Corsi's only daughter Rose (Corsi) Pavesi was living on Long Island and did not mention her Dad and as far as I recall, there are no photographs of him from her belongings. We lived in Ohio and we're not close, distance or communication. My cousin Ellen still lives in the L.I. area and acquired my grandma Rose's belongings through her Mom, my Aunt Helen, Rose's daughter. I asked her to look again for anything related. Ellen contributed some dialogue to Mr. Gorst's documentary so she remains one of our closest living links.

On a somewhat sour note, the Office of Registrar & Registry (Ufficio Stato Civile e Anagraffe) in Atina advised me just today, since I only have the birth year of 1868 for Grandpa Corsi, it is impossible for them to locate his official birth record. Disappointed, but not defeated. I think Mr. Gorst has reported the date of my grandps's death, so I redirect my effort to gain copy of the death certificate, which I am hoping, will have reference to his actual birth date.

If anyone has an accurate birth date or best guess, please post it here or write me at dapavesi@gmail.com. I may still have access to someone on the ground in the Lazio region where Atina is located, so will pursue that as well.

More to follow.

David P. said...

Dear all:

As promised, here is more info regarding Antonio Corsi.

Shortly after thinking I hit a dead end with the registrar's office in Atina, Italy, and expressing my disappointment that I thought based on simple translation of their last correspondence, they could not locate my grandpa Corsi's birth records due to only knowing the alleged year of birth, the registrar wrote me saying he has found the birth record, called "estratto dell'atto di nascitta" (birth certificate) and then attached a copy of it in pdf format.

Antonio Corsi was born January 6, 1868 in the town of Atina, Italy.

Needless to say, we are pleased to finally know his birthday and even more have a formal certified document if it.

Proof again, that if you believe in something, then pursue it, maintaining both diligence and persistence.

Glad to share this with you all.

SantaFeKate said...

Glad to hear it David! Persistence does pay off.

David P. said...

Hello again Catherine. It has been a long while since last communicating with you.

My cousin Ellen mentioned last night she heard the Corsi documentary is about to be released. Jake and others have been working a long time on this and we are pleased for their efforts that fruition is at hand. Let's keep an eye out.

I am at least having conversations with our cousin and Antonio's grandson, Anthony Corsi, living in southern Califirnia. Wonderful to make the connection to the oldest living generation. He and his sister Helen still living in Long Island are in their nineties.

Hallelujah.

SantaFeKate said...

David--thanks for the post. I checked online and found the following; says that the film is to be released in mid-2017. Amazing cast: Eric Roberts, Sean Young, Ed Asner among others.....
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2759098/

David P. said...

Thank you. Sounds exciting. Anticipation is building.

Finally spoke with cousin Helen Corsi D'Angelo in Long Island. Such a treasure chest of knowledge. She will be 97 in March. She still drives locally, taking lunch with friends.

This was my first ever conversation with hew. I am humbled to have spoken to her. She is understandably anxious to see the final film version. She told me she reminded Jake of her age(then) and her we she she will be around to view it. We are getting close.

I must admit this effort has brought me and my family closer together, especially on the Corsi side, from which we had become somewhat detached, partly due to geographical distance and some emotional circumstances which seem to have excluded even the mention of Antonio Corsi from family conversations. I am personally gratified that "Grandpa" Corsi, even in memory, is back in the conversation stream.

Thanks to you too Catherine, for your long time interest and following of this soon to be climactic story. Hallelujah.

SantaFeKate said...

David--so glad to hear about your latest contacts with Corsis. And also glad to hear that the project is nearing completion. I'm happy to have played whatever small role I did in this--and remembering my husband grandmother who painted Corsi when she was a young art student in 1905.