Thursday, June 23, 2005

Florence Conference on its English Cemetery, June 2004

In June 2004, together with the Gabinetto Vieusseux and in the Palazzo Strozzi at the same time as the Botticelli and Filippino Exhibition there, we had held an international conference on Florence's English Cemetery. Nic Peeters and Judy Oberhausen were participants. The papers can be read at etc.

Dear Julia,

I just want to say that Judy Oberhausen and I very much appreciate your work to preserve the ‘English Cemetery’.

The cemetery will always retain an aura of magic for me, because of the strange way that I first came to visit it. It was on a hot Saturday afternoon during the summer of 2003 and I was treating myself to a ramble around Florence after a rather fruitless search for evidence of the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s presence in Florence throughout the last decades of the 19th century. I arrived at the cemetery’s gate completely by coincidence and was immediately tempted to visit the famous tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Then I noticed a small sign on the gate saying that the cemetery was closed on Saturdays. For a reason that is still not completely clear to me, I whispered a little prayer to my favourite painter, Evelyn De Morgan, who was Spencer Stanhope’s niece. As by miracle the gate opened at once to let you and Assunta out. I asked if you could overlook the house-rules just for once and let me take a quick peek at EBB’s tomb. It was very close to EBB’s tomb that I then found the grave of Mary Spencer Stanhope, the painter’s young daughter, designed by himself: my first piece of strong artistic evidence of the artist’s presence in Florence!

The rest of the story you probably remember well. You invited me into your lovely library and after my head had stopped reeling I explained to you the wonderful discovery I had just made. Upon hearing this you asked me to deliver a paper on Mary’s tomb at the international conference you were organising. In June 2004 I gave this presentation together with my regular research/writing partner and pillar of strength Judy Oberhausen of San Mateo in California (another ‘coincidence’: this was where you had lived for years!).

Julia, we both wish you success with your campaign to save the ‘English Cemetery’, which is a treasure trough of information for art history scholars, and if there is anything we can do to support it, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Best wishes,

Nic Peeters

Art historian – Brussels University


Judy Oberhausen – Art historian, San Mateo, Ca. & Nic Peeters