Museum of the Académie Vitti
The Museum of the Académie Vitti, in the Ponte Melfa district of Atina, first opened its doors to the public in 2013. From the outside it looks like an ordinary house, but inside it holds a treasure trove of modern art memorabilia. The museum is dedicated to the Académie Vitti, a private school of art in Paris, founded by Cesare Vitti and his wife Maria Caira and her sisters Anna and Jacinta. The school, situated at 49 Boulevard Montparnasse, was active from 1889 to 1914. During this period of the Parisian Belle Epoque the Montparnasse quartier, was a centre of art and bohemian culture which attracted struggling young artists and sculptors from all over the world.
Artist Models From The Val di Camino
Cesare Vitti came from the village of Casalvieri, a small village in the Val di Comino, very near to Atina. The three beautiful Caira sisters, namely Maria, Anna and Jacinta, and their brother Antonio, all came from Gallinaro. They left Ciociaria and emigrated to Paris where they found work as professional artists models posing for painters, sculptors and photographers. Cesare himself had started out as a model and later became a painter and sculptor in his own right. Maria Caira was one of the most sought after models in Paris because of her so called perfect body. She posed for the American sculptor Frederick MacMonnies for his statue of Diana the Huntress.
Her brother Antonio Caira was a model who posed for Luc Oliveer Merson for the French 100 franc banknote. Antonio is depicted as a blacksmith – a symbol of work. Carmela Caira, a cousin of the Caira sisters also from Gallinaro, was a favourite model of Whistler, Matisse, Emile Bernard and Alice Pike Barney.
The academy was very progressive for its time because it was one of the first art schools to accepted women as students, during the period 1889 to 1900. Women artists attending state schools were generally barred from sketching nude male models. It became one of the most respected schools of Art in Paris. Some of its noteable teachers were Paul Gauguin, Luc Olivier Merson, F. Mac Monnis, Jacques-Émile Blanche, Hermen Anglada Camarasa and Kees Van Dongen.
However with the threatening of the outbreak of World War I the Caira-Vitti family decided to pack up and return to Italy. They brought back with them many items from the Academy. They moved to live in the same house in Atina where the museum is now situated. For over a century this collection was hidden away and almost forgotten.
Cesare Erario is a direct descendant of the family and when he inherited his grandfather’s house he found in the attic a fascinating collection of items relating to the Académie Vitti. Cesare began to piece together the story of the Parisian art school and went on to create a museum to exhibit the family’s treasured private collection of authentic works and memorabilia. On display are some paintings and many nude sketches in pencil, charcoal and chalk and paintings and some drawings by Jacinta Caira. There are also many postcards and photographs of models in costume taken by the greatest photographers of the time, such as Nadar and Naudet.
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