Agostina Segatori and the immigrant Italian models of Paris
in Art and migration
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Agostina Segatori, best known as a model for Vincent Van Gogh, posed in Paris during the Second Empire and Third Republic. This chapter situates her life and representations of her produced in Paris within the context of the history of Italian immigration to France and French perceptions of Italy and immigration. It traces the beginning of encounters between French artists and Italian models to Rome early in the century and follows the models’ emigration from the Italian peninsula to the French hexagon after mid-century. In Paris, Italian models became a focus for complex and conflicting ideas about immigration, cultural difference, and modernity which animated French discourse, both textual and visual. In the popular press Italians were represented as alien intruders, but within the Parisian artistic community, the French aesthetic tradition, which had long valorised Italian artistic production, shaped an alternative and far more positive view. For the immigrants, moving across borders to resettle in a foreign culture offered opportunities. The story of Agostina Segatori’s passage and the representations of her and other Italian models produced by Parisian artists illuminates both the perception of ‘Italianicity’ in the French imagination and immigrants’ negotiation of the transnational experience.

Art and migration

Revisioning the borders of community

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