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Picturing a World

Juana Romani

I wish I had known about the artist’s model and painter, Juana Romani when I was writing Where the Light Falls. She actually posed for Carolus-Duran and studied with his associate, Jacques Henner—although, maybe it’s just as well I didn’t know! It would have been tempting to include a character based on her, and the last thing the book needed was another character. Still, I’m glad to add her to the novel’s imaginative afterlife. And a fictional biography of her exists in French, Juana Romani: la muse oubliée by Diane Elisabeth Poirier.

I spotted her among a raft of photographs of French academic painters of the period and was surprised: here was a woman painter who appeared in none of the sources I had consulted in my research. Yet I now find that she was well known in her day. In a letter of July 1903, Henri Matisse lumped her in with other artists, including Carolus-Duran, whose works were selling well (see Hilary Spurling, The Unknown Matisee, [Univ. of Calif. Press, 2001], p. 241 and p. 451n23]. And she made so much money in her day that she founded and a school of art and endowed an annual prize in her birth city of Villetri in Italy.

For a site with photographs of the artist and examples of her work as a model for Henner and Falguiere, click here. The text is in Italian.

For an article in French (with an English abstract) about her career, click here
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