Not to be Missed: 3 Exhibitions and 2 Books

Dear readers,

we are delighted to announce 3 major events and 2 books, which, I am sure, will be of interest to any Vernon Lee scholar or student. Your feedbacks are always welcome!

TONIGHT’S EVENT: INAUGURATION OF Palace Women, Oltrarno and Beyond: Photography and Artisans, Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, 30 October-15 December 2023


Una mostra composita ispirata a figure femminili del passato e alle loro abitazioni raccontate attraverso diversi materiali e tecniche artistiche da un gruppo di giovanissimi o di artisti artigiani internazionali che operano a Firenze.

 La mostra è parte di una rassegna iniziata a Settembre che si compone di conferenze visite guidate e tours nelle realtà fiorentine che raccolgono l’eredità di donne eccezionali ancora così importanti per la nostra storia.

 Inoltre segnaliamo che il 2 Novembre presso la colonica del Palmerino si terrà un laboratorio di tecniche pittoriche per la realizzazione di un dipinto di un vaso di fiori tramite una tecnica elaborata dalla Bottega degli Angeli in concomitanza con la mostra su Federigo Angeli a Palazzo Medici Riccardi e inserito nel cartellone del Festival dell’Italia Gentile!

Il laboratorio è riservato a 10 gruppi famigliari ( un bambino e un genitore) ed è gratuito iscrizioni a

 Altre informazioni sul nostro sito

A composite exhibition inspired by female figures of the past and their homes told through different materials and artistic techniques by a group of very young or international artisan artists working in Florence.

The exhibition is part of an exhibition that began in September which consists of conferences, guided visits and tours in the Florentine realities that collect the legacy of exceptional women who are still so important to our history.

Furthermore, we would like to point out that on November 2nd at the Palmerino farmhouse a pictorial techniques workshop will be held for the creation of a painting of a vase of flowers using a technique developed by the Bottega degli Angeli in conjunction with the exhibition on Federigo Angeli at Palazzo Medici Riccardi and included in the program of the Festival dell’Italia Gentile!

The workshop is reserved for 10 family groups (one child and one parent) and registration is free More information on our site

Federigo Angeli: The Florentine Renaissance in the 20th century7 October 2023-7 January 2024

Federigo Angeli, Il Rinascimento fiorentino nel XX secolo 07 Oct – 07 Jan 2024. The exhibition “Federigo Angeli -The Florentine Renaissance in the 20th century” will open to the public on Saturday 7 October, promoted by the Metropolitan City of Florence, organized thanks to the support and contributions of Banca Patrimoni Sella & C. and Sella Sgr, companies belonging to the Sella group, with MUS.E and the Il Palmerino Cultural Association aps and hosted in the Fabiani Rooms of Palazzo Medici Riccardi until 7 January 2024. Curated by Francesca Baldry and Daniela Magnetti. Organized by: Banca Patrimoni Sella & C., Sella Sgr, Associazione MUS.E, Associazione Il Palmerino. Location: Sale Fabiani

The exhibition – The exhibition project was born and developed around two matching paintings by Federigo Angeli entitled “Corteo di dama” and “Signore a Cavallo,” belonging to the collection of Sella Sgr on which the Artistic Direction of Banca Patrimoni Sella & C. carried out an important work of conservation, analysis, and correct attribution of the works, thanks also to the collaboration of various art historians, public bodies and private institutions. The documentary evidence from the archives at the Cultural Association, Il Palmerino proved to be particularly useful. 

The exhibition committee entrusted with catalog insights and curatorship benefited from the collaboration of professionals and art historians from public and private institutions, in a synergy of experience and expertise capable of encouraging new perspectives of study: Cristina Acidini, Francesca Baldry, Daniela Magnetti, Roberta Masucci, Marco Moretti, Federica Parretti, Filippo Timo, and Valentina Zucchi.

The exhibition is an opportunity to learn more about the artist and the context in which his workshop operated. In Florence, in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries, a real cult for Renaissance art developed thanks to the strong presence in the city of the Anglo-American community. La Bottega of Federigo (1891), Alberto (1897) and Achille (1899) Angeli took on the dimension of a great artistic forge capable of satisfying the ambitious extravagances of patrons and clients: from the restoration of paintings to copies from antiquity, from weddings coffers to the tempera paintings, to the fresco decoration of entire villas in the United States, the French Riviera and Monte Carlo, helping to disseminate the taste for fourteenth and fifteenth-century painting abroad.

The works The two paintings on canvas can be directly traced back to the Cappella dei Magi fresco cycle painted by Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-1497) between about 1459 and 1464, both in terms of the overall construction of the scene and of precise literal references: the steed in step and the rampant steed, the ornamented noblemen, the rocky backdrop on which the turreted cities stand out, the treatment of vegetation. Compared with Gozzoli’s precedent, however, Angeli’s workshop stands out for its innovations and contamination of sources. If in the richly decorated walls of the Medici-Riccardi Palace chapel female figures are either totally absent or relegated to the margins of the scene, in the two canvases signed Angeli, women appear as protagonists of the procession. Inspired by Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) from Cappella Tornabuoni in Santa Maria Novella, the woman on horseback echoes the profile of Giovanna Tornabuoni in the Birth of Maria, while the woman with a basket on her head holding the rabbit is a reference from the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Alongside the two large canvases, the exhibition places other evidence of the wide and varied artistic production of the Bottega Angeli, with displays of sketches, paintings and richly decorated furnishings that can tell the story of the family of artists’ inexhaustible search around the sources of inspiration from the Renaissance.

Federigo Angeli (1891-1952), a native of Castelfiorentino and the oldest of four children, began his apprenticeship at a very young age with his father, painter and decorator, Angiolo Angeli. In Florence, at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, he frequented the Libera Scuola di Nudo and was a pupil of the American artist Julius Rolshoven. Federigo’s artistic abilities and talent as a draughtsman were soon recognized and it was not long before he received awards and certificates of merit: he won the first prize for two consecutive years in the Scuola Pio Istituto De’ Bardi for ornamental and figure drawing, Together with his brothers Alberto and Achille, Federigo transformed his father’s workshop into a successful enterprise that contributed to the spread of Florentine taste throughout the world, exporting its style and reproductions of the major artistic works of the Renaissance.

In addition to the works in the Neo-Renaissance style, he cultivated a more personal artistic production which will be represented in exhibition with some portraits and a still-life.

During the period of the exhibition, the visitors have the exceptional opportunity to visit the painter’s house at Villa Il Palmerino and its garden:  Saturdays of October 14th, November 18th, and December 9th . Visits only by appointment:


Palazzo Pitti | Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Sala del Fiorino e Sala della Musica
23 ottobre 2023 — 28 gennaio 2024

a cura di Piergabriele Mancuso, Alice S. Legé e Sefy Hendler (Italian) (English)

This is an important event, and we are very grateful to the curators, especially Alice S. Legé, for bringing to light the history of the ghetto. For Vernon Lee scholars and students, it offers the opportunity of seeing the letter Lee wrote to the Editor of the Times, dated December 15, 1898, to save the Historical Center of Florence from destruction. An Italian translation of the letter is held at the Archivio Storico Comunale di Firenze.

The “Centre”–including the old market-place, Vasari’s fish-market, several very important ancient churches, some beautiful and most interesting palaces of guilds and old families, and a unique ensemble of mediaeval streets and lanes–was not cleared or ventilated, or drained, or otherwise sanitated, but simply swept off the face of the earth, not a trace of it remaining in the group of commonplace and inappropriate streets, and the ostentatious and dreary arcaded square which arose on its site. Only a colossal inscription proclaimed to the scant passers-by and the solitary cabs that, after centuries of squalor, the “Centre” of Florence had been given over to new life! Many of us foreigners can remember this astounding self-mutilation of the town of Florence; and all who can must heartily agree with one of the greatest of German authorities on art, and, like him, stigmatize it as “scandalous.” (Vernon Lee to the Editor of the London Times, December 15, 1898, Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Ins. C cass. 57 nm. 4028-4056 e nm. 2011-2012 prezzi 2+29)

As Lee wrote to Clementina Anstruther Thomson, her engagement with this conservation work as a Member of the Society for the Protection of Old Florence was a fairly uphill work: “Now I have finished, I hope, with old Florence –over 4000 signatures already come in, including 20 French academicians! –” (Vernon Lee, letter to Clementina Anstruther Thomson, December 4, 1898, Vernon Lee Archive, Miller Library, Colby College).

For more about the Jewish ghetto of Florence and Lee’s action to save it, see D. Medina Lasansky, Hidden Histories: The Alternative Guide to Florence & Tuscany


Meet Harriet Chastel de Boinville, the mother of Violet’s mentor Cornelia Turner

The story of Harriet Chastel de Boinville’s heirloom is in itself a powerful incentive to read the book. It started for me with a letter from a reader I did not know, Bryan Chastel de Boinville, about Vernon Lee’s letter to Henrietta Jenkin, Lucca, June 18, 1875. Vernon Lee’s letter read:

“Alfred Turner sent me a few days ago the beautiful watch of Dr Burney which Madame d’Arblay left to Madame Chastel de Boinville –Mrs Turner had mentioned it in one of her letters to me –It is most precious to me, for Mrs Turner’s sake as much as Madame d’Arblay’s –I hope I may do something to deserve it some day-” Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume I, p. 199.

My reader marvelled: “Why, this is my ancestress’s watch you are talking about!”

Indeed, after Harriet’s death, on June 28, 1875, Giovanni Ruffini sent the watch to Vernon Lee with this note:

A vous enfant précoce, revenant de droit le souvenir de cette autre enfant précoce, qui fut Madame d’Arblay

To you, a precocious child, righly belongs this memento of the precocious child that was Madame d’Arblay.

(Qtd B. Corrigan, “Giovanni Ruffini’s Letters to Vernon Lee, 1875-1879,” English Miscellany 13 (1962): 179-240)

Now it was my turn to wonder.

How did Charles Burney’s gold watch end in Vernon Lee’s grateful hands, through Frances Burney d’Arblay, Harriet de Boinville, Cornelia Turner, Alfred Turner and finally Giovanni Ruffini? Many years later, when came the announcement that Barbara de Boinville had just published Harriet de Boinville’s biography, I was eager to find an answer to that mystery.

The reader discovers an amazing web of friends in this immensely readable biography that provides a wealth of information, through anecdotes, first-hand testimonies, letters and diaries, about Harriet Chastel de Boinville and her Circle. Vernon Lee scholars will particularly appreciate Chapter 26, “Cornelia Turner and Vernon Lee Continued the Literary Life, 1848-1875”. Cornelia Turner was Harriet Chastel de Boinville’s daughter, and Vernon Lee’s mentor.

“When they met, Cornelia was seventy-five; Violet, fourteen. . . . . Violet’s half-brother, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, introduced her to Cornelia and Ruffini. Eugene had met the couple in the summer of 1868 in Thun, Switzerland. A member of the staff of the British embassy, Lee-Hamilton was transferred to Paris in 1870 and on June 16th he took his sister to the rue de Vintimille, where Cornelia and Ruffini then lived. “Mrs Turner was oh so kind!” Violet wrote her father the next day and enthusiastically described the visit.”

Mrs Turner encouraged fourteen year old Violet to write, read her very first story, Les aventures d’une pièce de monnaie, comforted her after the editor of the journal La Famille (Lausagne), Vuillet, had cut her text, offering anecdotes about her friend Shelley’s writer’s block. (Vernon Lee’s letters to Mrs Turner are in Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume I).

Mrs Turner’s partner Giovanni Ruffini, was also “closely involved in young Violet’s literary progress. He urged her to read what the poet-dramatist-librettist Pietro Metastasio had written. Violet followed Ruffini’s advice. In 1871 she read what the renowned musicologist Dr. Charles Burney, Frances Burney d’Arblay’s father, had written long ago about Metastasio.” This is how Violet Paget started on, and then, with Mrs Turner’s and Ruffini’s encouragements, persevered in, completed and published her Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy in 1878. By the time it was published, Violet Paget had become Vernon Lee, as she announced to her mentor on April 6, 1875: “The name I have chosen as containing part of my brother’s [Eugene Lee-Hamilton] and my father’s [Henry Paget] and my own initials is H.P. Vernon Lee.”

Cornelia Turner also helped Eugene Lee-Hamilton to find publishers for his works. During the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, Eugene received a telegram from Alfred Turner worried about the fate of his brother and uncle hospitalized at the Maison de Santé in Ivry, following the bombing of Fort d’Ivry. He travelled by car from Versailles to Ivry, a journey of 6 to 7 o’clock, which allowed him to give reassuring news of A. Turner’s parents but also to make the bitter observation of the destruction of the villages by the Prussians during the Siege of Paris: “The destruction is indescribable.” About these letters, see our publication “C’est un monde qui s’écroule”: Eugene Lee-Hamilton et la Commune de Paris, lettres à sa famille (31 août 1870 – 9 juin 1871).

It is probably from them that Eugene Lee-Hamilton knew about the correspondence between Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron. Claire Clairmont was Byron’s young lover and the mother of his daughter Allegra. In March-May 1888, Henry James published The Aspern Papers sourced from his visit to Eugene of January, 12 1888.

“On 12 January one of Henry James’s Florentine circle, Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845–1907), the
half-paralysed poet stepbrother of Violet Paget (Vernon Lee, 1856–1935), had told him of Captain
Edward Silsbee, ‘the Boston art-critic and Shelley-worshipper,’ and his richly frustrating encounter
with the ancient Claire Clairmont, ‘Byron’s ci-devant mistress,’ whose papers he coveted. This
became The Aspern Papers, which appeared in The Atlantic in 3 shortish parts (March–May 1888)”
(Philip Horne [ed.], Henry James: A Life in Letters [London: Penguin Classics, 1999], p. 189). (Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume II, ftn 2, p. 478)

On October 24, 1888, in his letter to his sister, familiarly addressed as “Bags”, Eugene somewhat bitterly comments:

“Henry James has sent me (me) his new two volume novel – the Aspern Papers. Perhaps you may remember that I furnished him with the subject of it by telling him the story of old Silsby & Miss Clermont” (Eugene Lee-Hamilton to “Bags” (Vernon Lee), Florence, October 24, [1888]). (Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume II, p. 477)


Selected Letters of Vernon Lee 1856-1935, Volume III (1890-1896), ed. by Sophie Geoffroy and Amanda Gagel (assoc. ed.) for Routledge, The Pickering Masters Series, December 2023. Pre-issue sale NOW on the publisher’s website.

Table of Contents


Publisher’s note

Table of Illustrations



Vernon Lee’s life and letters: 1890-1896

Editorial policy: textual and technical considerations

Table of the letters in this volume

Notes on Lee’s Correspondents in this volume The Letters: 1890-1896


Bibliography (Works cited)

Resources and Archives consulted


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