Callum at Front Free Endpaper sent me this photo a while ago of a page from an old boys’ book after he saw my Men With Snakes post which featured the same statue, Lord Leighton’s Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877). Leighton’s sculpture came to mind again recently following a chance reference to another bronze figure, and one of the most famous statues in London, Alfred Gilbert’s Angel of Christian Charity (1893) aka Anteros or, as everyone now knows it, the Eros of Piccadilly Circus, patron saint of the area’s rent boys. The notable fact was the revelation that the model for Eros was one Angelo Colarossi whose father was also named Angelo Colarossi and was the model for Leighton’s python wrangler. Colarossi Snr, an Italian immigrant, was a popular artists’ model and—no doubt wisely in those days—encouraged his son to follow the same line of work.
One rarely sees mention of the identities or lives of models for works such as these although they aren’t always unknown, as noted earlier in a post which touched upon American model Audrey Munson. Unknown they may often be but these two models at least have monuments beyond the dreams of any other family of Victorian immigrants. It fascinates me to think of these images of father and son lodged in different parts of London. (Leighton’s statue is now in Tate Britain.) Colarossi Snr is also believed to have posed for John William Waterhouse and an article at the Waterhouse site pursues some possible examples.