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Meet Arturo Noci, a favorite of high society during the Belle Epoque

by Andrea Carli

Some people know him, many don't. The Italian painter who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries was a man with a large mustache who was highly sought by aristocratic ladies who wished to have their elegance immortalized in his portraits.

May I introduce you Arturo Noci, the so called “painter of high society”? An exhibition in the Modern Art Gallery in Rome, near Via Veneto at the heart of “The Dolce Vita,” will do it in my place. The show, until September 27, focuses on the portraits painted in the period that goes from 1897 to his move to New York in 1923.

Born in Rome in 1874, Noci is one of the protagonists of Italian art in the early 20th century. He was always fascinated by the expressiveness of the female figure, in particular those with red hair.

In 1905 Queen Elena of Savoy purchased one of his pastels and at once, as if by magic, everything changed: his name began to circulate in the most aristocratic circles. Two years later, this artist was invited by the King of Siam to Baden Baden to paint his portrait.
In 1912 Noci became one of the founders of the Roman Secession group, who wants to break free from the tired choices made by official exhibitions.

The international success, plus the close relationship with an Anglo-American clientele, led the Italian artist to move to USA, where he worked for three decades as a portrait painter of the upper class.

In the “Portrait of the Countess Gianotti,” for the first time on public display, he paints on canvas a leading lady of the early 20th century, a symbol of the Roman high society described by the Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio.

During his Secessionist period, Noci painted the “Portrait of Lyda Borelli,” a diva of silent film.

This artist who was always surrounded by beautiful women never married, and always preferred an exclusive golden worldliness to family life, which was less fashionable. Maybe.