Our second century

In 1916, Assistant Director Eugenie Strong and architect Ernest Cormier briefly took up residence in the current BSR. We know a little about these early days in the building, which was by no means as complete as it is now. The east wing was missing (and not completed until the 1930s).


Plan of the BSR with missing east wing (Courtesy of the BSR Archives)

One of the studios was the common room, and housed Thomas Ashby’s [Director 1906-25] Piranesi prints in a special cabinet. Part of the Director’s flat was the temporary kitchen. Ashby himself was at the Italian front as a volunteer ambulance driver; most of the thirty-seven men associated with the BSR, including its Italian staff, were also caught up in the war.


The former common room – today one of our artists’ studios (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)


Thomas Ashby’s Piranesi prints on display in the common room (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

But the building was ours, for all that it was incomplete, and its first two residents were remarkable figures. Strong — an ebullient socialite, an expert on Roman art, polymathic, and profoundly international with contacts across Europe — is relatively well known. Her immense collection of commercial photographs of art and sculpture from several periods remains an untapped part of the BSR archive; and work on her large collection of postcards merits external funding.


Eugenie Strong (Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

Ernest Cormier stands for another aspect of the BSR. He was a Canadian architect, and designed not only the central buildings of McGill University but also Canada’s Supreme Court in Ottawa. Our Commonwealth roots and our commitment to architecture, and to excellence, come together in the figure of Cormier.


Supreme Court of Ottawa, designed by Ernest Cormier – the first student to take up residence at the BSR in 1916 (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is fitting to remember Cormier as we also think this year of our departed and much-missed friend, Francesco Garofalo, who himself spent several years in Canada and who gave so much to the BSR. Francesco and his wife and fellow architect Sharon Miura worked on the extension of the BSR at the beginning of this century, including the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre, where his posthumous book of essays was presented earlier this month.


Speakers at the launch of Whatever happened to Italian Architecture? (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)


Architect Sharon Miura who managed the BSR’s Sustainable Building Project with her late husband Francesco Garofalo (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

A century on from its beginnings, the BSR’s building has never been in better shape. Thanks to my predecessor’s extension, and the recent Sustainable Building Project refurbishment programme — which Sharon Miura project-managed, with architects Studio Amati, engineers ARUP, and building contractor LO.MA — our artists are now showing their work in a temperature- and humidity-controlled gallery, our Library periodicals are in a fully refurbished basement, and we are constantly driving down energy costs.


Work on the east wing roof during the Sustainable Building Project (Photo: Natalie Arrowsmith)


Christopher Smith inspects the building work (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)


The refurbished artists’ studios (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

To celebrate this, we were proud and honoured to receive a visit from our President, HRH Princess Alexandra, who launched the next phase of our Second Century Campaign. We are working to create a stable and sustainable basis for our future. We hope that as many of our members as possible will visit us next year and that all our existing friends, and many new ones, will help us continue the traditions of internationalism and excellence which have characterised the first century of the BSR and will serve us well in our second.


HRH Princess Alexandra visiting the BSR to launch the Second Century Campaign (Photo: Thomas Toti)


HRH Princess Alexandra with members of the Sustainable Building Project team and BSR staff and residents (Photo: Thomas Toti)

Christopher Smith (Director)

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: https://britishschoolatrome.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/ashby-and-the-first-world-war/

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)

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)

Preparing for the year ahead: behind the scenes

As we wrote in our blog last week, August represents a change of pace for us. The Library has completed its annual ‘checking’ and inventory of 110,000(!) books and periodicals, as it prepares to re-open on Monday 29 August. August is also the time for Maintenance Officer Fulvio Astolfi to undertake any major renovation works needed for the recommencement of our events programme and the arrival of the new award-holders.

Last August, Fulvio’s attention was focused mainly on the Sustainable Building Project, which was successfully completed earlier this year .

This project was a large undertaking but is only the most recent of the makeovers that the building has gone through — since its beginnings as the British pavilion for the 1911 exposition in Rome — to become a residence fit for purpose for the hard creative work that we support.


The BSR as it stood over a century ago — as nothing more than a façade.

Along with these larger projects the BSR has always had a team of committed staff members to look after the building on a day to day basis. With the help of BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco we found this photograph (which some of you may recognise from the BSR’s One Hundred Years centenary volume) of Carpenter Pio Fiorini, Fulvio’s previous incarnation!


Pio Fiorini (left), joined the BSR on 10 March 1946. He is pictured with Giuseppe Fioranelli (right), who eventually took over Pio’s position following his retirement.

The picture shows the two outside on the tennis court, but the carpenter’s ‘office’ was the space underneath the front steps of our grand façade — since transformed into the Gallery during the building project of 2000.


From carpenter’s studio to exhibition space …. the Gallery under construction during the building works of 2000 that also saw the creation of the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre.

During the 2000 and 2015 building projects, the successors of Pio and Giuseppe, Maintenance Officer Fulvio Astolfi and Domestic Bursar Renato Parente have excelled in their commitment to to supporting the activity of our residence. Their tireless commitment to the Sustainable Building Project — and ongoing maintenance of the BSR building — has been immeasurable.

Fulvio Astolfi and Renato Parente during the building works of 2000. Photograph by Sarah Hyslop.


Renato and Fulvio in 2015 helping to prepare the Gallery for an exhibition. Photograph by Sophie Hay.

As we continue our work behind the scenes to prepare for the new academic year, we look forward to telling you about the work, ideas and discoveries, which the BSR will be home to in 2016-17.




If you would like to see more images from the Sustainable Building Project take a look at our blog celebrating its completion.

Images courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives unless otherwise stated.

Behind the scenes in the BSR library

August always heralds in a much quieter time at the BSR; our lecture programme has finished for the academic year, the majority of our award-holders have left and many of the permanent staff choose this month to take their holiday.


With the additional closure of the Library to the public, August also provides the perfect opportunity for the annual Library inventory – over 60,000 volumes checked one by one and it only takes just over a week!

Space is at a premium now and another week is spent moving round kilometres of books to create space for next year’s acquisitions.

Thanks must go to this year’s team who have made this possible and particularly to our colleague Francesca Deli, who masterminds the whole operation!


Left to right: Cecilia Spano, Francesca Deli, Alessia Martella, Cecilia Carponi, Giulio Di Basilio, Stefano Delìa (Matteo Pagano not pictured)

Shelf checking is a two person job: here Stefano reads each book’s call number while Matteo checks it against the record.


Francesca controls the whole operation from her desk in the library office.


We look forward to the library’s reopening in September!


Images taken by Paul Barker and Natalie Arrowsmith

Meet the editors of the Papers of the British School at Rome (PBSR)

We are so happy to introduce our three editors of the Papers of the British School at Rome!

In a blog originally published on the Cambridge Journals Blog our three editors talk a little bit about themselves.


‘Earlier this year, the British School at Rome’s Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters decided to extend management of Papers of the British School at Rome (PBSR) from a single editor to a team of three editors in order to represent and promote the full disciplinary and chronological range of the journal. The three editors will continue to work closely with members of the Faculty, as well as staff and scholars of the BSR and Cambridge University Press, in order to publish high-quality peer-reviewed papers on the archaeology, literature and history of Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean on which Italy has exerted an influence. Below, the three editors introduce themselves and their interests and areas of expertise, and flag up some of their favourite PBSRpapers in recent years, which have been made available to you free of charge. If you have an idea for an article that you would like to send to the journal, the editors would be happy to discuss it further with you: their contact details are given below.


Ancient: Mark Bradley (University of Nottingham): mark.bradley@nottingham.ac.uk

I have been Editor of PBSR since 2011, when I took over from Josephine Crawley-Quinn, and I am a member of the BSR’s Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters. I have been a regular visitor to the British School at Rome since the late 1990s, and much of my research – both as a postgraduate student and an academic scholar – has been inspired and supported by the extraordinary resources and activities of the School. In June 2007 I co-organised a conference there on ‘Rome, Pollution and Propriety: Dirt, Disease and Hygiene in Rome from Antiquity to Modernity’, which was published as a BSR monograph by Cambridge University Press in 2012. I have worked at the University of Nottingham for 12 years, where I am Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education in the Faculty of Arts. My primary research interests lie in the role of sensory perception in the literature and art of imperial Rome, and I am author of Colour and Meaning in Ancient Rome (2009) and editor of Smell and the Ancient Senses (2015). I also have interests in the reception of classical antiquity in modern European culture, and I am editor ofClassics and Imperialism in the British Empire (2010). I am currently working on a book on Foul Bodies in Ancient Rome, examining literary and artistic approaches to the bodies of history and myth that occupied the margins of civilized Roman society in the early Empire: my first foray into this area of research was published in PBSR 2011 as ‘Obesity, corpulence and emaciation in Roman art’.

PBSR has published first-rate papers on classical antiquity for over a hundred years, and there are some real gems among them. I remember being particularly influenced by John North’s study of ‘Conservatism and change in Roman religion’ (1976) and Susan Walker’s short paper on evidence for the iconography of Cleopatra at Pompeii (2008). Of the papers published under my editorship, two of my favourites are Seth Bernard’s provocative but important reassessment of the circuit walls of early Rome in PBSR 2012, and Jerry Toner’s fascinating study in PBSR 2015 of evidence forbarbers and barbershops as a window on to the ways we can reconstruct Roman popular culture. While PBSR continues to publish in its traditional areas of strength in Italian archaeology and Roman history, we have seen in recent years an increasing openness to studies of classical art and literature, and I hope that the journal will continue to be a venue for debating and discussing all aspects of ancient Rome and Roman Italy.


Medieval / Renaissance: Trevor Dean (Roehampton):t.dean@roehampton.ac.uk

As a former Scholar of the British School (1980-81), it’s a great pleasure now to take up a new role as co-editor of the Papers. My own research has evolved strongly since the early 1980s – from political history to the history of crime, and from Ferrara to Italy more generally. But Rome has never been far from my concerns, especially in my teaching, where students and colleagues have kept me in touch with Roman history and culture. Thinking about how the Papers have contributed to my evolving scholarly foci, I particularly recall some articles by my teachers, co-authors and colleagues, such as Daniel Waley’s playfully-titled ‘Combined operations in Sicily’ (1954), Philip Jones’ magisterial ‘Florentine families and Florentine diaries’ (1956), and Kate Lowe’s study of reverse-patronage in ‘Artistic patronage at the Clarissan convent of S. Cosimato, 1400-1600’ (2001). Two articles that I have used and valued in my study of conflict and criminal justice are:Peter Clarke’s comparison (1999) of the clerical interdict of San Gimignano, 1289-93, to a strike, in which the commune hired ‘scab’ clerical labour, violently took possession of the parish church and its bells, and accused the clergy of theft of precious objects; and Miles Pattenden’s investigation(2009) of the expanding judicial powers of the papal governor of Rome in the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which was accompanied by a relaxation of statutory rules on judicial practice – an important institutional background to the rich trial records which have been so engagingly used by historians such as Tom and Elizabeth Cohen. I hope that we shall be publishing articles as good as these in the next few years.


Modern: Aristotle Kallis (Lancaster):a.kallis@lancaster.ac.uk

I consider my time as Balsdon Fellow at the BSR (2014-15) as one of the most intellectually rewarding periods of my academic life. It is thus with immense pleasure that I take up the role of co-editor of the Papers, with my focus being on papers with a more modern, post-17th century focus. Over the years, my research has often centred on the idea and the city of Rome in the twentieth century, with particular – and more recent – focus on its urban planning and modern architectures. But Rome is a city of such unique and fascinating historical density, in time and space, that I always find its pull irresistible. I am currently working on a history of Rome’s ‘other modernisms’ in the early twentieth century, studying in particular how the spirit of modern innovation was infused by local architects with ideas drawn from regional traditions and the surrounding built environment. I am particularly intrigued by the production of the Institute of Public Housing (ICP) in Rome during the first three decades of the last century. But I also find that the history of Rome always confronts the researcher with much broader questions that transcend conventional categories of historical time or geographic space. Recently I have become interested in exploring how the tropes of romanità and mediterraneità have influenced international modernist architecture and urban planning in the twentieth century.

PBSR has its own, perhaps less well-known, treasure chest of articles covering the modern period in the history of the city and Italy as a whole. I remember in particular Charles Burdett’s fascinatingly wide-reaching 2011 article ‘Nomos, Identity and Otherness: Ciro Poggiali’s Diario Aoi 1936–1937 and the Representation of the Italian Colonial World’. But it is the sheer diversity of chronological, thematic, and disciplinary coverage that makes the Papers such a special and dynamic journal of scholarship. Browsing through the (physical or digitised) pages of the 2008 issue of the Papers (to take one example), readers can immerse themselves in the Iron Age and the Mycenaeans, in visual art from Pompeii, in painting from early medieval and Renaissance Rome, in archaeological discoveries and millennia-long surveys of the Aurelian walls, in literature at the time of the Risorgimento, and in migration in post-war Rome. This is a prime example of the openness to diverse interests and approaches that the Papers have successfully pursued in recent years; and I am confident that this is an aspiration that will continue to drive the journal’s reputation as a welcoming venue for high-quality scholarship on diverse aspects of modern and contemporary Rome and Italy.’

Helen Gorham (Cambridge Journals Blog Contributor)