photo by Jonathan Becker, Vanity Fair November 2011
In the late 1980s I lived in Rome with my Italian architect boyfriend. We lived in a beautiful old palazzo built in the 16th century on a cobblestoned square next to the beloved Tortoise fountain.
Across the hall lived the wonderful American photographer and art critic Milton Gendel. We became good friends. Milton was at the center of the Roman social whirl at its most glamorous time. From artists to royals, Milton documented the period with his photographs, which are both personal and candid yet beautifully composed. Fortunately for me, I am now an avid collector of his marvelous pictures.
I’ve invited Milton to be the first in my new blog series of visits with talented international artists, designers, and innovators. Entitled “My Visit With” these blog posts will explore individuals around the world dedicated to producing original and inspiring work. Putting these posts together is, for me, a labor of love, and I invite you to share in my inspiration.
I’ve included below some of my favorite photos taken by Milton. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for a list of Milton’s favorite places in Rome.
Clowning at the Top – Broadchalk, 1965 “Sir Cecil Beaton, born in 1904 into an ordinary British middleclass family, was ennobled for his extraordinary accomplishments as a photographer, designer, diarist and painter.” In this photo, Milton captured Beaton welcoming Princess Margaret to his home with a pitcher of drink and a lampshade atop his head.
Rare Top Models – Rome, 1987 Andre Leon Talley and Lord Snowden of Vogue were sent to Rome to cover the Fendi line of fur coats for 1987. Here Milton captures the writer and the photographer in the midst of their own fashion show. “Neither furs nor jokes provoked the reaction of the Roman animal activists at the time.”
Soft Watches and Hard Sell – Paris, 1970 Salvador Dali, photographed here by Milton in Paris, “was in fact an anomaly for a vanguard artist, as he favored Franco and monarchy and affected dandified dress, gold-headed canes and a spirited waxed moustache with turned-up ends.”
Royal Pragmatism – Balmoral, 1976 “The royal mystique in England is tempered by an everyday domestic ordinariness that may take form of the Queen herself feeding discarded documents into the shredding machine at her office in Buckingham Palace.” Or, as captured here by Milton, as the Queen feeds her famed corgis.
Cultivated Highflyers – Formentor, 1976 Included amongst the many fashionable women photographed by Milton is Carolina Herrera, shown here sunning on the beach in Majorca. Herrera started as a stylist, dressing women such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, before starting her namesake brand.
Cecil Beaton Portrait Painter – Spetsai, 1961 Another great photo of Cecil Beaton, here captured in Spetsai, the Greek Island and a favorite resort destination of Michael and Anne Tree. “Since the sociability and the talk among the members of the house party were notable, Spetsai was known in the jargon of the intimates as Yobbers’ Island.”
Collecting on the Grand Canal – Venice, 1952 Famed art collector Peggy Guggenheim, photographed here at her Venetian home, often surrounded herself with friends and acquaintances. “On balmy days she often entertained her guests on the landing in front of the palace. Here, on the Grand Canal, having drinks with some friends, she appears with her hair still black. Subsequently, when she renounced any amorous interests, she let it go white.”
Triple Mug Shot – Rome, 2006 While at dinner with Alexander Calder one evening Milton happened to cross his legs, revealing the white on the soles of his shoes, a result of recently painting the walls of his studio. Calder took a pencil out of his pocket, leaned over and drew a full-face portrait of Milton on one sole and his profile on another. Despite the winter cold, Milton removed his shoes before walking home that night, where he later captured this image.
Note: all photos shown here can be found in the book “All Around Fulco di Verdura,” viewable online here.
A selection of Milton’s recommended places in Rome:
• The Protestant Cemetery & Pyramid of Cestius
• The historical medical museum of the Ospedale di Santo Spirito
• The Borromini church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
Milton’s work has been shown or can be found in the following museums and institutions:
• Gibellina and Spoleto Municipal Museums, permanent collections
• American Academy in Rome
• Museo Bilotti Aranciera di Villa Borghese
• Museo Mario Praz
• Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, permanent collection
To purchase Milton’s photographs contact:
Milton Gendel Photo Archive
1 0018 6 Rome
tel. 39 06 69921711
Galleria Montoro 12 Contemporary Art
Via di Montoro, 12, 00186 Rome
tel. 39 06 68308500