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from L’Americana Lucia’s Anticoli, Town of Madonnas

Lucia’s mother, Madonna of Anticoli

90 year old Lucia Nebel White was born into a family of beautiful Madonnas.

On a gorgeous late June evening, bottle of wine in hand for the dinner that would follow, we arrived.

In the studio

You’ll like her, Betty says. She’s Italian, she’s a photographer and she lives in an old-stone studio that was once her fathers.

Now, it goes without saying this was the perfect trifectafor me – Italy, photography and old stone – Betty knew, I was an easy read. But it didn’t prepare me for who I was about to meet.

Piacera! Piacera! signorina’ Lucia beamed, opening the door of her Westport kitchen, vintage paintings and photography lining the walls … ‘Forgive me dear, I am not so smooth these days with my Italian!’ And I assure her that at the moment, neither was I.
To reach her, we trekked our way lightly through an overgrown garden across a tree shaded bridge through a bramble of bushes and out onto a bright grassy clearing where high on a stone porch not unlike Italy, assorted potted flowers were in bloom…

The stone studio in Westport

Her father was American Beaux-Arts sculptor Berthold Nebel. Her mother Maria Lucantoni – just one of a family of Italian beauties, born in Anticoli Corrado – was his model. He met her mother while studying at the Art Academy in Rome.

Anticoli, you see, was known for its beautiful women’, Lucia tells us. Women so classically alluring that artists studying at the Academy back then (they were mostly, perhaps even exclusively men) would flock to the town to hire, and sometimes even marry them.

‘They came from Spain, from South America, from all over the world, just for the models’, she says. ‘Do you know the Fontana della Naida in Rome? She was from Anticoli, and she became famous!’

At one time there were over 55 artists studios in Anticoli. Lucia’s two Aunts and cousins on her mother’s side all posed as models.Pirandello and Pasquarosa -one of the youngest & a cousin, who became a painter herself – were neighbors. They called it, the Town of Madonnas.

As a young American photographer Lucia was a contemporary of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen ( ! ) She confesses over a glass of wine and a caprese salad, that she narrowly missed the deadline to exhibit in MoMA’s The Family of Man – a moment recalled with the faintest tinge of regret.

‘Steichen was a real stickler about submitting. I was only 3 days late. If it had been up to Stieglitz well, my Anticoli images would have made it in.’
Lucia’s B/W images of her mother’s town from the late 1940s on, are as ethereal and evocative as the circle of life itself.

Berthold Nebel in his studio
Nereid, Sea Nymph


Lucia with her book

Lucia Nebel White has exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is in the collection of the International Center of Photography in NYC and in the Historical Society of Westport CT.

You can also find her book My Anticoli: Town of Madonnas on Blurb.

But we hope to find her and her images in Anticoli, Italy very soon…

Written by A_ve

10 luglio 2014 a 07:12

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