Rutelli’s naked lady at Aberystwyth

by The Curious Scribbler

There have been several developments in the story of ‘Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War’,  the somewhat unexpected sculpture at the foot of Aberystwyth’s war memorial. ( search ‘Rutelli’ in earlier blogs to follow the story).  Through internet searches I had located an apparently identical sculpture, in Rome, which, according to Marco Demmelbauer, the restorer who had worked on her some twenty years ago, was called Verità esce dai rovi ( Truth emerges from the bushes).

Recently I had a message from Rome-based historian Nicholas Stanley Price who went in search of her at Via delle Quattro Fontane 18.  He reported instead that she is now to be found at Via delle Quattro Fontane 15,  next door to the Palazzo Barberini, home of the National Gallery of Art.   She is indoors now, in a hallway, and the context of the pictures reveal that rather than being a precise duplicate, Truth is half the size of Aberystwyth’s lusty Humanity.  Moreover there are some discernible differences, especially in the twiggy foliage from which the figure emerges.

Truth emerging from the Bushes, in the hallway of Via Quattro Fontane 18

Truth emerging from the Bushes, in the hallway of Via Quattro Fontane 15, Rome Photo Nicholas Stanley Price




Rutelli Truth emerging from the bushes 3

Truth emerging from the bushes. Rome. Photo by Nicholas Stanley Price

Now I have another correspondent, Alan Wynne Davies, who is off to Rome shortly to have a look at her.  I hope he may be able to throw light on that sculpture’s history.  I believe she was taken for restoration from an outdoor situation in the courtyard of a block of flats at No 15.  It would be nice to find out when she was actually commissioned, and whether the design follows or pre-dates the Aberystwyth nude which records show was being cast in Rome in April 1922 and shipped by Thomas Cook to Liverpool in  October 1922.

And in a separate strand, I was given the chance to follow up on a recurrent urban legend: that the Aberystwyth sculpture was modelled upon the wife of the proprietor of Ernie’s Fish bar in this town! The trail led to Nora James of Trefechan, a handsome elderly lady who is a local matriarch and daughter of the alleged model.  Mrs James’ mother  Maria Pelizza was married in Italy to Ernest Carpanini, an Italian who had worked in the restaurant and ice cream business in South Wales before the first world war.  Moving first to Llanelli, the young bride found herself by 1922 in Aberystwyth where her husband Ernest and his partner Joe Chiappa opened a chipshop called ‘Ernie’s’ by the town clock.  Maria spoke very little English and mainly worked in the kitchen, but both she, and the massive sculpture on the memorial were new to town, beautiful and Italian. Thus, I believe, the myth was born, perhaps as a tease by the customers.

Nora recollects that her mother always dismissed the allegation, and no member of the family supported the outrageous suggestion that she had ever modelled in the nude.  However the the myth was accommodated with the vague suggestion that someone “had got hold of a photo of her face” and that this likeness was reproduced.  More prosaically I think that the likeness was a coincidence born of the Italian features of Maria Pelizza and the Italian model in Rome.

Nora James, daughter of Maria Carpanini the alleged model for the Aberystwyth war memorial

Nora James, daughter of Maria Carpanini the alleged model for the Aberystwyth war memorial

Ernesto and Maria Carpanini founded an extensive Welsh family and most of  their grandchildren work in or around Aberystwyth.  It is a sad note that Nora recollects that her father, who was on account of his nationality interned on the Isle of Man for the entire second world war, returned home a shadow of his former self in 1945 and never fully regained his former spirits.

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Nobody wants the Queen’s Hotel

by the Curious Scribbler

I mentioned in my last blog the cutting-edge luxury of the former Queen’s Hotel on the northern end of the promenade.  Opened on the newly extended promenade in 1866 its grand bedrooms offered hot and cold running water, – both fresh and salt –  allowing the guests to enjoy the advantages of sea immersion in the comfort and privacy of their rooms.  It was an extravagantly fashionable building, blending the traditional grey local stone with imported sandstone window dressings, and topped off with a frenchified mansard roof pierced by attic dormers.  The building rises from a basement to four storeys, even a fifth storey at the corner tower, and the observant passerby can find ornamental assemblages of minerals set in panels in the stonework beneath the ground floor windows on three sides of the building. It was designed by the London architects C.F. Hayward and H.D. Davies.

The Queens Hotel, forlorn and for sale

The Queen’s Hotel, forlorn and for sale

The Queen's Hotel and former Council Offices, Aberystwyth

The Queen’s Hotel and former Council Offices,

The business was not very successful and sold by its proprietor in 1877.  However it continued as a hotel and in 1910 an advertising pamphlet emphasized the ‘package deals’ of train fare and accommodation, which could be purchased from Great Western Railway stations in low season.   The particulars of a Contents Sales in 1914 show that it was then richly furnished with lots of high Victorian mahogany furniture, jardinieres and bronze marble-topped tables.  It remained in service as a hotel with 100 bedrooms and a dining room seating 180 until requisitioned in World War II.  In 1950 a five day sale disposed of the entire contents of the hotel and nearby stabling.    The empty building was acquired for ‘Swyddfa’r Sir’ the County Offices, and  in the past decades it has housed many departments including the Police Station, the Registry Office, and the Ceredigion County Archive.  One by one these functions have moved away, the first two to purpose-built palaces on St Brieuc Avenue, the County Archive to a restored and renewed Town Hall.  Empty and forlorn for the last couple of years, the Queen’s had a brief starring role as a location for the TV drama Hinterland.  A case of art imitating life:  the old building was cast as the Police Station!

After 18 months on the market for £1 million the building has attracted no buyers, and will be auctioned in London by Allsop’s on 18 September.  Startlingly at a time when £275,000 is the price for a one-roomed house with bed shelf in Islington, a mere £250,000 is the guide price for this gigantic Victorian hulk on our seafront!  The stately old building is Lot 171 amongst a national assortment of 285 frankly rather ordinary houses and flats.     It is, at least, expected to raise more money than Lot 236, a bankrupt guest house in Rhyl.   Aberystwyth waits anxiously to learn who the next owner will be.

For more on the Queen’s Hotel see Helen Palmer’s informative blog on


A geological panel below a window on the Queen's Hotel

A geological panel below a window on the Queen’s Hotel

A geological panel below a window on the Queen's Hotel

Another geological panel below a window on the Queen’s Hotel

A geological panel below a window on the Queen's Hotel

A third geological panel below a window on the Queen’s Hotel



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