Benvenuti to our new award-holders!

On Monday 3 October, the BSR welcomed sixteen new award-holders into the fold! Their first week has been packed with talks, events and inductions, and it has been a fantastic start to the new academic year.

Highlights of the week included two sessions of introductory talks, in which each award-holder gave a brief presentation on their area of interest and set out what they hope to achieve while at the BSR, and more generally how the experience of being in Rome might enrich their research or practice. It was wonderful to see such a wide range of fascinating topics being discussed, and we are very much looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labours in the coming months!


All sixteen of our new award-holders. Photo credit: Antonio Palmieri

Our award-holders were also treated to a tour of the Forum and Palatine by our very own Director, Christopher Smith. Previous reviews of this tour have heralded it as ‘life-changing’ and ‘legendary’, and it certainly lived up to its reputation! The tour began and ended in the pouring rain, but the award-holders were rewarded for their perseverance with a burst of sunshine at the very end, giving a spectacular view of the Forum.

Back at the BSR on Thursday evening, our staff, residents and award-holders were joined by a number of guests from London Business School to attend a discussion on the EU Referendum hosted by Jill Morris, the UK Ambassador to Italy. Italians and English alike were very keen to have an insight into how the Embassy intends to approach the issue of Brexit, and the lively discussion continued over a buffet dinner, as the attendees had the opportunity to debate further questions with the Ambassador.

The final introductory event was a visit to the Villa Medici, hosted by the French Academy, where the BSR award-holders met their fellow artists and scholars from the other foreign academies and institutes in Rome.


Our award-holders outside the stunning Villa Medici.

We hope that the new award-holders had a fantastic first week, and we are extremely excited to see what the months to follow will bring with them on board!

Click here to see a full list of this year’s award-holders.

Ellie Johnson (Administrative assistant)

Ashby First World War photographs on tour

We have more news from the Archive this week. Friday 30 September saw the opening of the exhibition Umanita’ al fronte: la British Red Cross a San Giovanni al Natisone nella Grande Guerra at the Biblioteca di San Giovanni al Natisone.


BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco speaks at the opening of Umanità al fronte.

The exhibition is made up of approximately 60 photographs from the Photographic Archive of the British School at Rome. The images were taken by the BSR’s third director Thomas Ashby during the First World War, and they give us an insight into daily life at the front. Some of these photographs were first exhibited at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj last year in collaboration with the Croce Rossa Italiana and with the generous support of the British Embassy in Rome:

So far there have been 300 visitors to the exhibition, and an extensive secondary schools programme will be delivered to help students understand the key role played by the small villages in that area during the First World War. We are delighted that these photographs continue to reach new audiences, and that our Archive Project Ashby and the First World War continues to play an important role in the centenary commemoration of the First World War.


Installation shot from Villa de Brandis.


Guests at the exhibition opening at La Barchessa – Villa de Brandis.



Exhibition curators: Fabrizia Bosco, Anita Deganutti.

Exhibition organisers: Elena Braida, Marco Pispisa.

The Comune of San Giovanni al Natisone and its mayor, Valter Braida.

Digital images and prints: Stefano Ciol.



Text by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager) and Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).

Images by Marco Pispisa (Biblioteca Civica di San Giovanni al Natisone). More photographs of the event are available on the Biblioteca Civica di San Giovanni al Natisone Facebook page.


Archive receives donation of 20th-century press photographs of the Roman Forum


From left to right: Valerie Scott (BSR Librarian), Christopher Smith (BSR Director), Liam Jensen-Kohl, Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist). 

This week we were delighted to receive a very special donation for our Archive.

A collection of 20th-century press photographs in and around the Roman Forum was generously donated by Lynette Jensen, and consists of 75 black and white press photographs taken between the years 1924 and 1993 (its sister collection of engravings and photographs sits in the Museum of Ancient Cultures, Macquarie University, in Sydney, and traces the depiction of the Roman Forum from the first days of printing to the early 20th century).

This new collection is a valuable addition to our Photographic Archive which already holds over 100,000 items – prints and negatives of rare and unique collections. The Lynette Jensen Collection, Roman Forum 20th-Century Press Photographs will be available for consultation for study purposes, so please email our Archivist Alessandra Giovenco to find out more.

Lynette hopes that the photographs ‘might go a small way in reflecting the enormously important role the BSR plays in Australian scholarship and the gratitude and fondness Australians feel for the British School at Rome’.

Many thanks to Liam Jensen-Kohl (pictured above) who archived and prepared the collection, and brought it all the way from Australia!

Students protesting against sound and light shows in the Forum in the early 1970s.

Students protesting against sound and light shows in the Forum in the early 1970s.

'ROMAN AUTOS GET CHURCH'S BLESSING' for the feast day of Santa Francesca Romana - patron saint of Roman automobilists!

‘ROMAN AUTOS GET CHURCH’S BLESSING’ for the feast day of Santa Francesca Romana – patron saint of Roman automobilists.

Yet more cars outside of the colosseum. No blessing this time - just a traditional Roman traffic jam.

Yet more cars outside of the Colosseum. No blessing this time – just a traditional Roman traffic jam.

It seems that no photographer can resist the classic combination of Roman ruins and cats.

It seems that no photographer can resist the classic combination of Roman ruins and cats.



Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager)

Collaborating for the cultural heritage of the world: FAI and the National Trust at the BSR

On Wednesday 14 September, the BSR was proud to host an event all about conservation and cultural heritage in collaboration with FAI and MiBACT, including a contribution from Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini. Director Christopher Smith looks back on this exciting event within the context of the BSR’s wider research framework.

‘The BSR has had a long and glittering history as a promoter of conservation and heritage management. In a sense, our third Director Thomas Ashby was already speaking to this as he recorded the disappearing Campagna, and it has been a constant theme, right through to the hugely successful Herculaneum Conservation Project, directed by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, which was important not only for its achievements, but also as a model for public-private partnerships.

The BSR’s research theme on this subject has been populated with a number of important conferences and events, and we recently added to this with an important occasion, bringing together the very best of UK and Italian experience.

The event, entitled Collaborating for the Cultural Heritage of the World: The Role of Public–Private Partnerships, was a joint event with the Italian National Trust, FAI. There were three case studies. Daniela Bruno spoke about the Parco Villa Gregoriana at Tivoli, and its restoration. The spectacular walk through the Parco is attracting record visitors, and is a testimony to the capacity of FAI to regenerate and advertise places of great beauty and importance. James Bradburne presented his experiences at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and now the Brera in Milan. His brilliant presentation showed how a gifted and determined museum director can pull a team together and set a gallery at the heart of the cultural life of a city. Finally, the BSR’s own Research Professor in Archaeology Simon Keay and Research Fellow Renato Sebastiani demonstrated the potential of the archaeological park at Portus and Ostia, right by Rome’s Fiumicino airport.


Paolo Conti (Corriere della Sera) giving his first address

The keynote was offered by Dame Fiona Reynolds, Chairman of the worldwide network of heritage and conservation charities, INTO. Her extraordinarily wide-ranging presentation of different examples of public-private partnerships across the world was held together by a clear focus on what is needed for successful heritage management – clear vision, clear roles and responsibilities, public credibility and support and long-term sustainability. In response, our two very special guests, President of FAI and BSR Honorary Fellow Andrea Carandini, and Italy’s Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, emphasised the role of international collaboration. The presence of a government minister at what Carandini described as a historic meeting confirmed the importance of this initiative in driving forward a debate about the models which can address the specific circumstances of individual projects in Italy. In concluding, Director Christopher Smith noted that Rome’s foreign academies had a seminal role in bringing together best practice and collaborating to deliver outstanding research results and sustainable heritage management.

Over the coming months, the BSR will host an important international workshop around the concept of beauty in public life, in collaboration with the British Council and think tank ResPublica; and a major conference on conservation and restoration at Portus. Stephen Kay’s international field school at Pompeii taught principles of conservation to an enthusiastic team. Several other projects are under development. From education, to practice, to policymaking, the BSR is leading the way in bringing UK expertise to bear on conservation and heritage management in Italy.’

Christopher Smith (Director)

Photos by Antonio Palmieri.

To read more about the event, see the FAI website where you can also download the PowerPoint by Dame Fiona Reynolds.

Sculpture at the BSR

This week on our blog, we take a look at the work of two former BSR award-holders, and show how the creative practice recorded in the BSR Archives becomes the subject of contemporary research.

Alfred Hardiman in his studio at the BSR

Alfred Hardiman in his studio at the BSR.

Earlier this summer, Archivist Alessandra Giovenco received an email from former BSR resident, Valerie Holman, letting her know that an article based in large part on research carried out at the BSR had just been published in Sculpture Journal.

Valerie kindly took the time to tell us about her research:

‘In 1920, Alfred Hardiman (1891-1949), a mature student in art and former engineering draughtsman, became only the third recipient of the Rome Prize in Sculpture. He spent a very productive four years at the BSR, completing in clay a seven-foot figure of Peace, now cast in bronze and sited in the garden of St James’s Piccadilly, as well as many portrait busts of staff and fellow students, among them Winifred Knights. Knights’ paintings and drawings, including her portraits of Hardiman, are currently on show at Dulwich Art Gallery in London [the exhibition is now drawing to a close, having had a very successful run!].


Hardiman’s sculpture of his contemporary at the BSR, Winifred Knights.

Sculpture created in Italy made his reputation in the UK, and led to prestigious, large-scale commissions such as the four groups of figures that adorn London County Hall, and his equestrian statue of Earl Haig in Whitehall. A strong advocate of collective endeavour, he made lasting friendships at the BSR that extended into his professional life, collaborating with the award-winning architect, Stephen Rowland Pierce, on several public buildings during the 1930s.Nearly 100 years later, my brief time at the BSR was spent trawling through archives with the patient help of Alessandra Giovenco [BSR Archivist], or strolling through Rome to try and see the city as Hardiman did, pondering relationships between light and mass, scale and space, classical order and Baroque exuberance. It was an incomparable opportunity to understand what the Rome Scholarship in Sculpture must have meant to a man of modest means whose later work, though still extraordinarily little known, is now prominently sited in cities across the UK.’

This July we had a visit from a more recent former award-holder, Michael Rhodes, who came back to visit the BSR for the first time in over 30 years. Michael recalled his envy when a close friend was awarded the Rome Prize in Sculpture at the BSR – only to shortly afterwards himself be awarded the Gulbenkian Scholarship in Sculpture.

From a working class background, Michael remembers his preconceptions about coming to the BSR, fearing his fellow award-holders would all be ‘condescending’. In reality, his two years – residencies were often much longer at that time – at the BSR were filled with intellectual stimulation, travel…and romance. The BSR is doubly special for Michael as his wedding was held here (with the organisational help of the legendary Anna Fazzari), his wife-to-be having worked in the archaeology department during his residency.

Having lived in Berlin for a large part of his working life as a sculptor (‘Berlin has been trendy for twenty years now’), during his visit he rekindled his fascination with Rome, and hopes to return soon.

Work in progress in Michael's Berlin studio.

Current work in progress in Michael’s Berlin studio.

We are pleased that the BSR, and specifically our Fine Arts records, continue to be a vital research resource for scholars and practitioners alike. If you think the BSR Archives might be useful for your research, contact Archivist Alessandra Giovenco to discuss your project.

Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager)

Digging Pompeii: the 2016 summer excavations

This summer saw the second season of work by the BSR, the Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Doctores y Licenciados en Letras y Ciencias de Valencia y Castellòn. Departamento de Arqueologia and the Museo de Prehistoria e Historia de La Diputación De Valencia at the site of the necropolis of Porta Nola outside the north-eastern gate of Pompeii. Following the success last year of the discovery of a further burial inside the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus and the excavation of cremations alongside the city wall, the 2016 season concentrated on two further areas within the necropolis.

The 2016 International Field School saw the participation of 22 students from ten different countries who over the course of five weeks were trained in excavation techniques, ceramic identification and osteology, with a focus on studying cremation burials. Alongside the team, conservators continued work begun last year on the structure of the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus as well as conserving the objects being recovered from the site.


Study of the cremations of two Praetorian guards. Photo by Charles Avery.

This summer’s excavation focused on the area immediately behind the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus in order to understand its relationship with the smaller gateway into the necropolis and understand whether it formed part of the funerary precinct or delimited the pomerium of the city. The excavation discovered a number of deposits alongside the gate resulting from the cleaning of ustrinum (the place of a funerary pyre), as well as a beaten earth road that led through the gate to the circuit road of the city. As ever with excavations, on the final day an ustrinum was discovered at the very limit of the trench, complete with burnt human bone, ash and large pieces of carbon. This will be investigated in the final season of excavation next year.


Excavation of a vase behind the Tomb of Obellius Firmus. Photo by Stephen Kay.

Elsewhere on the site the excavation of a rectangular structure was completed, built just behind the funerary monument of Aesquillia Polla. Variously described by earlier research as a funerary precinct, garden or ustrinum, the 2016 excavation sought to understand the role of this structure, built in a prominent position opposite the Nolan Gate. Once the excavation had removed layers dating to activity of the early twentieth century, which included the burial of a dog and the loss of several terracotta smoking pipes, the work revealed large deposits of construction material used to raise the level beneath the building. However the 2016 excavation did not record any cremations, supporting the theory of a late construction that was not used before the eruption of AD 79.


A coin of Divo Augusto issued under Tiberius (15 – 16 AD). Photo by Stephen Kay.

The Porta Nola Necropolis Project is extremely grateful for the support shown by the Soprintendenza Pompeii, in particular the Soprintendente Professor Massimo Osanna and the funzionario for the area Dott.ssa Annalisa Capurso. Permission and assistance was also kindly given by Dott.ssa Laura D’Esposito and Dott.ssa Marialaura Ladanza for the osteological study of two Praetorian burials, excavated in the mid 1970s by the Soprintendenza. In the field, the team was kindly supported by the Soprintendenza excavation assistant Sig. Vincenzo Sabini. The project is directed by Llorenç Alapont, Rosa Albiach and Stephen Kay with the support of a team of specialists: Trinidad Pasies (Conservator), Letizia Ceccarelli (Finds Officer), Ilaria Frumenti (Surveyor), Fabio Mestici (Numismatist) and Pasquale Longobardi (Health and Safety Officer). The 2016 excavations were supervised by Pedro Corredor, Tomas Jirak, Monika Koroniova, Adrià Pitarch and Sheyla Sancho. Finally, a huge thank you to all the students who participated in the excavation this year for their tremendous hard work.


Members of the 2016 excavation team. Photo by Llorenç Alapont.

Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)



A new (academic) year begins

Those of you who have been following our August blogs will know that the BSR is a quieter place over the summer, giving staff the chance to work hard behind the scenes to prepare everything for the next academic year, and providing our monthly residents with the perfect environment for their research and practice.

However this week is when all of that changes! 1 September marks the beginning of the BSR’s academic year 2016-17 bringing with it many new and exciting lectures, exhibitions and conferences in our upcoming events programme (details of our September events are available on our website).

Our library has been open to the public since Monday with its newly inventoried 110,000 books and periodicals available for reference, and we are looking forward to the arrival of a whole new cohort of award-holders who will be arriving in early October.


Assistant Director Tom True says, ‘With another dazzlingly refulgent events programme this autumn, the BSR is once more a top destination for engaging with innovative and creative research. We are proud that this term’s programme of conferences, lectures and other academic events, delivered in collaboration with scores of international scholars and partner institutions, supports and showcases research at its best, while making these events open to the public. We commence on 14 September with Dame Fiona Reynolds, former director-general of the National Trust, who will investigate collaborating for the cultural heritage of the world: the role of public-private partnerships in discussion with the great Professor Andrea Carandini.’

All images taken by Paul Barker © Country Life