Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite)

1836Feiburg, Switzerland | 1879Castellammare, Italy
Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, duchesse de Castiglione Colonna, dite) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Adolphe Dallemagne, Marcello, ca. 1866-1867, photograph, 20 x 12.5 cm, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département des Estampes et de la Photographie.

Swiss sculptor and painter.

Born into an aristocratic family, Adèle d’Affry, who would later go by the pseudonym Marcello, decided to become an artist at the age of 14. She wrote that she found her vocation when she saw Louis I of Bavaria’s collection of statues: “For me [art] will be a profession.”
Between 1853 and 1854 Marcello learnt the basics of drawing with Fribourg portraitist Joseph Auguste Dietrich (1821-1863) and painting with Joseph Fricero (1807-1870) in Nice. She then took sculpting classes in Rome with Heinrich Maximilian Imhof (1795-1869). At the end of the year 1857 she modelled a bust of her recently deceased husband, Don Carlo Colonna, Duke of Castiglione-Aldovrandi, from memory, as well as a self-portrait as a gift to her mother. Her first sketches include drawings of figures from the Sistine Chapel. She was strongly inspired by Michelangelo (1475-1564) and even wrote a sonnet in which she asked him to make her his heir.
In 1859 she rented an apartment in Paris and taught herself by copying the masters at the Louvre. Dressed as man, she attended Professor Sappey’s anatomy classes at the Faculty of Medicine. She also studied animal drawing at the Natural History Museum with Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875), received advice from Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883) and met Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), who shared her admiration for Michelangelo.

Marcello completed her first successful composition, La Belle Hélène, in 1860. The piece was also her first to be reproduced in bronze. She sent a copy of it to Napoléon III. In 1861 her application to study at the school of fine arts was rejected. She spent time in Rome in 1862 and saw the group Ugolin et ses fils [Ugolino and his sons] by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875) at the Villa Medici, in which she also noticed Michelangelo’s influence.
She made her debut at the Salon in 1863. She presented three busts: two in marble, including her Bianca Capello, and another in wax. The emperor commissioned her to create a sculpture of Hecate for the gardens in Compiègne – a piece reminiscent of Michelangelo’s sibyls – as well as a bust of Empress Eugénie, which was at first rejected by the École des Beaux-Arts Commission of the City of Paris but was later accepted by Baron Haussmann.
The 1867 Paris World’s Fair was an opportunity for her to present a retrospective exhibition of her work in the Papal States section. Seven women’s busts were shown surrounding her Hecate: mythological (The Gorgon, Ananke), historical (Bianca Capello, Marie-Antoinette at Versailles, Marie-Antoinette at the Temple), literary (Goethe’s Margarete) and contemporary (Transteverian Woman).
At the 1870 Salon, she exhibited La Pythie (Pythia) which was met with mixed reviews, and Chef Abyssin [Abyssinian chief], which was praised unanimously. Charles Garnier purchased La Pythie for the hall of patrons of the Opéra de Paris. Marcello received only two honourable mentions in her career at the Salon despite having several of her works purchased by the state for the Musée du Luxembourg (Bianca Capello, Chef Abyssin). Her supposed fortune was perhaps an obstacle, and she was also often accused of amateurism. However she did receive a medal at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair.

Beginning in 1869 Marcello decided to perfect her painting skills. She took drawing classes from Ernest Hébert (1817-1908) at the Villa Medici and painting lessons in the studio of Mariano Fortuny i Marsal (1838-1874). In 1870 and 1871 she trained in the studio of Alfred van Muyden (1818-1898) in Geneva. Upon returning to Paris in 1872, she painted with Léon Bonnat (1833-1922). The first painting she sent to the Salon in 1874, La Conjuration de Fiesque [The Fieschi Conspiracy], was rejected by the jury. She painted some one hundred canvases, most of which were portraits, copies, genre scenes and still lifes.
Marcello promotes and documents her works very early on through photography, worked with Nadar (1820-1910) In her will she donated all her works and collection to her hometown of Fribourg. Her mother, Laure d’Affry, maintained her legacy and opened the Marcello Museum on 28 July 1881. Marcello was buried in the Givisiez parish cemetery. Her epitaph translates to: “She loved Beauty and Goodness and her work outlives her.” Her work as a sculptor was highlighted by the research undertaken by Henriette Bessis and Catherina Y. Pierre, as well as the exhibition Marcello : Adèle d’Affry (1836-1879), duchesse de Castiglione Colonna held in Fribourg, Compiègne and Pregny-Chambésy from 2014 to 2016, and an international symposium in Fribourg in 2014.

Mathilde Leïchlé

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

Publication made in partnership with musée d’Orsay.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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