More on Rutelli’s sculptures

by The Curious Scribbler

I’ve had a lot of interesting comments arising from the blogs on Rutelli’s Aberystwyth war memorial sculptures. In this town we like our handsome nude woman, and people often stop to take her photograph.  She is more eyecatching than the traditional assemblage of weapons or the lone and gloomy soldier of so many other towns.

It was a real find to discover she also exists in a garden in Rome ( see Truth comes out of the Bushes) .  But as correspondent ‘dredwina’ points out, it is not unusual in the 20th century  to make five or six editions of a bronze, declaring them at the outset, but not actually creating them all until buyers turn up.  Just as there are at least three Rutelli winged victories in the world, there are, for example, two locations where Churchill and Roosevelt chat upon a bench. Spotting the duplicates could become an absorbing hobby.

The original model, however, was a one-off and  sources have come up with several  oral histories on the subject.  Helen Palmer  writes:- I had a story that the model for the busty lass was a Belgian girl who – as a very elderly lady – visited Aberystwyth some time in the 1980s, but I cannot remember the source and maybe it was all baloney!

While historian Gerald Morgan had a slightly different version – When showing a group around Aberystwyth I was told that the naked lady had been modelled on the wife of a local shopman, Ernie’s Chips or some such, and that as an old lady she had returned to Aberystwyth in the ?1990s and been interviewed by the Cambrian News! Again, I’ve never checked it out!!

Possibly these are both spurious claims.  More likely the girl in question was in Rome, and since she would have been  at least 16 when she modelled she must have been extremely old by the 1990s!

By contrast ‘Tone’s account of repairing the part-severed head of Edward Prince of Wales on the seafront stands up to robust scrutiny. ” At the time when I was employed as a Art/Ceramics technician at the then Visual Art Dept. Llanbadarn Road, on more than one occasion I had to travel to the “Old College” to repair Edward’s neck as an attempt was made to remove his head at the end of the academic year by, it was said, students from Pantycelyn Halls of Residence.
He wasn’t a tall prince, though could be described as handsome, It was an easy to repair as I could reach the damaged area without the aid of steps.
Although as you say “seldom remarked upon” he is certainly marked upon by the use of the hacksaw!

I climbed up the plinth to verify, and established both that Tone is a good deal taller than myself, and that the repaired hacksaw groove on the back of the neck is plain to see.

The green line of corrosion marks the repair to the Prince’s neck

I don’t think we will find other editions of this sculpture tucked away incognito.  It is generally understood to be the only life-size bronze of Edward VIII anywhere.  His abdication in favour of marrying Wallis Simpson put paid to what might otherwise have beena lustrous career in commemorative statuary.

Statue of Edward Prince of Wales at Old College Aberystwyth

Edward Prince of Wales, Chancellor of the University College of Wales 1922, by Mario Rutelli

Arthur Chater also comments  “And I believe that students once sawed off, or tried to saw off, his head. There is certainly a nasty scar on the side and back of his neck. The statue as a whole is rather good I think, with a nice art nouveau trail to his gown, but the face is appallingly weak – maybe though this is in fact a perceptive insight into Edward’s character on the part of Rutelli?”

His gown is indeed very fine, and richly ornamented.  His face looks strangely faun like, though it is true that in photos as a young man his tip tilted nose and and boyish look is indeed apparent.  If this was modelled in 1922 he was less than 28 when the likeness was taken.

A close up of Edward's face

Detail of Edward Prince of Wales, a likeness from or before 1922

The Prince of Wales photographed by Hugh Cecil Saunders in 1925

Speaking of fauns, Mary Burdett Jones has reminded me that I have so far neglected Rutelli’s first commission in Aberystwyth, the war memorial to 10 members of the Tabernacle chapel who died in the First World War.  Tabernacle Chapel?  Yes, that is another story…

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An Image of Multi-tasking Womanhood

By The Curious Scribbler

Cruising the works of Italian sculptor Mario Rutelli, I came across another work of his, the memorial to Anita Garibaldi on the Juniculum Hill in Rome, which was created in 1931.

If ever we need a monument to multi-tasking this must surely be it.  Poised upon a rearing steed, brandishing a pistol whilst breastfeeding her infant son, the Brazilian wife of Guiseppe Garibaldi is represented as a heroine of mythic proportions. Fashioned 83 years after her death, to embellish the seventh and final resting place of her mortal remains, there is no reason to consider this an accurate portrayal of the woman, but of an ideal.

Rutelli’s Anita is the stuff of legends – mounted on a rearing horse (an exceptional feat of engineering) she brandishes a pistol in one hand while holding her nursing son close in the other arm. Photo: Will Hobbs

Garibaldi was an active Republican dedicated to the liberation and unification of Italy.  Finding it politic to depart for South America, he soon became involved in fighting for  independence in Brazil.  During this swashbuckling existence he acquired an 18 year old  Brazilian wife, Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro, who often fought at his side, dressed as a man, and is credited with greatly improving his horsemanship. During a five year lull in revolutionary activity in Montevideo he worked as a schoolteacher and fathered four children with her.

He and his family returned to Italy to join the conflict between the revolutionary army and the invading forces of Napoleon III.  Briefly the revolutionary army won the battle of the Juniculum Hill in 1849 and repelled the French.  However two months later the Roman Republic was defeated, and he and Anita were fugitives.  Four months pregnant with their fifth child and ill with malaria, Anita died, at a farmhouse near Ravenna, in her husband’s arms, and was hurriedly buried in an unmarked grave.  She was just short of her 29th birthday.

Monument to Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro di Garibaldi, best known as Anita Garibaldi, on the Juniculum Hill, Rome.  Photo Will Hobbs

Oddly, when I studied History O level many years ago, the examiners had determined that we should study this period of Italian history.  So I used to know quite a lot about Count Cavour, Victor Emmanuel II, Mazzini, and Garibaldi.  At  an age when I had learnt  almost nothing about 19th century British history it seemed an irrelevant and isolated bit of knowledge, most of which I promptly forgot.

However everything forms connections eventually.  And the connection with Aberystwyth?  Well, it confirms my suspicion that the sculptor Mario Rutelli was in his element with an imaginative brief, and his female figures are rarely sedate in their bearing.  By contrast how bored must he have been with his commission for the bronze full figure sculpture of Edward Prince of Wales ( Edward VIII) in the robes of Chancellor of the University College of Wales in 1922.  It too survives, seldom remarked upon, in the narrow strip between the Old College and the sea.

I am grateful for permisison to reproduce the photographs of Anita’s monument, see


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