How Via Margutta Became a Destination for Art and Genius in Rome

“My grandfather liked to say: ‘All roads lead to Via Margutta'”, notes Valentina Moncada di Paternò, an eminent art historian and art consultant, whose family played a central role in the cultural development of the street. Some of the greatest names of the 20th century have come to this haven of peace in the heart of Rome – Picasso, Stravinsky, Fellini, Fortuny – after centuries of artists and craftsmen have settled here.

Margutta’s unique story has been Moncada’s passion for decades. An ancestor, Marquis Francesco Naro Patrizi Montoro, owned substantial real estate across the street and developed the studios that attracted top artists from across Europe. From 1887 to 1960, Margutta was also the seat of an influential club, the Associazione Artistica Internazionale, where famous personalities like August Rodin, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Le Corbusier, Simone de Beauvoir and Umberto Boccioni came to mingle and attend conferences and exhibitions. . For the past 30 years, Moncada has dedicated herself to documenting and archiving Margutta’s rich past, a project that has resulted in the vast and multifaceted Studi Patrizi Archive and a comprehensive book, which she has edited , on this legendary path, Workshop in Via Margutta: Five centuries of international culture in Rome (German).

His initiative led to highlighting more recent aspects of Margutta, such as its role in the history of Roman haute couture during the from the city sweet life days. She created archives for the work of her father, Johnny Moncada, a well-known photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, who maintained a studio here, and for her American-born mother Joan Whelan, a fashion model for creators in Paris and Rome. . Moncada has also created a collection of her own work as a leading contemporary art expert – she had a gallery on Margutta for 25 years, collaborating with major artists like Anish Kapoor, James Turrell and Chen Zhen..

Organizing the various items and thousands of documents, photos and correspondence was a huge undertaking. What prompted Moncada to tackle the first projects on Margutta was the desire to better understand what it was describing in Workshop as “the disconnect between the world fame of the street and the submerged history of its artists”. Moncada grew up on Margutta and says, “Federico Fellini was seen walking this quiet road daily, but no one could tell me exactly who had lived and worked here.” By discovering the private archives of Francesco Patrizi in a family castle in Umbria, Moncada says “having opened up a world of information”. When she started the project, the goal was to “draw a line from the popes’ decision to encourage artists to come through Margutta to Francesco Patrizi, who decided to build artists’ studios during the unification from Italy, wanting to help establish Rome as a vibrant international capital.

The Patrizi family has owned property on Margutta since the 17th century, but the studios were developed 200 years later. According to Moncada, a key catalyst for their creation was the prestigious and historic Prix de Rome, when winners came to the Eternal City to study art. “It was in this context that my great-great-grandfather decided to transform the land of [places for] artisans at [studios for] artists,” she says. Moncada wrote in Workshop how Patrizi, a nobleman from a conservative aristocratic family, became “a man of the avant-garde” through his keen interest in art. Its archives now include half a millennium of material – the oldest item dates from 1571 – but some of the earliest historical documents and maps were donated to the Vatican in 1946 by Patrizi, she says, where they are.

Margutta’s story has long been linked to the papacy. In the 16th century, a pope granted tax relief to artists and artisans in Margutta; the Vatican also took a great interest in the talents of northern European artists who came to paint and draw inspiration from classical Rome, some of whom were linked to the streets. Moncada’s own family has ties to the Vatican; his ancestors bore the rare papal title of marchesi di baldacchino (marquis of the baldachin). ” Each family [with that rank] had to have a reserved room, a canopy lounge, where the pope went every year to catch up on news from the black aristocracy [Roman nobles with close ties to the Vatican],” she says. “My grandmother grew up remembering the Pope’s visit.”

Perhaps the most glorious period in Margutta’s history, says Moncada, came in 1917 when Picasso arrived. “He is among the best chronicled artists, but his period in Rome has not been studied so deeply.” While on Margutta he painted two key works, “The Italian” and “The Arlecchino e donna con collana.” 1917 is also an important year for Russian artists in Rome. “Stravinsky has come. Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes arrived to escape the revolution and the First World War,” she says. Although Picasso’s stay was short, he was certainly productive – as well as creating two masterpieces, he started the costumes and sets for Jean Cocteau’s ballet, Parade, and met his first wife, ballet dancer, Olga Khokhlova. Moncada wrote about Picasso’s time on Margutta in the book, Picasso in Rome. 1917—My Studio in Via Margutta 53B (Mondadori Electa).

Picasso may have represented a cultural pinnacle for Margutta, but it was in the 1950s and 1960s that the street achieved worldwide fame thanks to Roman Holidays, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. (Peck’s film character Joe Bradley had an apartment at Margutta 51.) It was then that Rome became a post-war celebrity magnet, dubbed Hollywood on the Tiber. , an era that saw the rise of directors like Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti and Michelangelo Antonioni. Moncada’s parents became leading figures in Rome’s burgeoning fashion scene, him as a photographer for international magazines and with models like Jean Shrimpton and Ali McGraw; she as a model for designers Givenchy, Mainbocher and Pucci. It was a period of high glamor where the street seemed to function as an informal club for talented and famous people. Emilio Pucci might stop by Johnny Moncada’s studio for a visit (he helped introduce Moncada’s parents), or Audrey Hepburn would be among the guests at a birthday party (as she was when Valentina had two years).

Artists’ studios remained until around 1960, says Moncada, including one maintained by Assen Peikov, known for his sculptures of celebrities and world figures. Eventually, Margutta’s fame began to catch up with her. “Where the artists go, the money goes,” says Moncada. As in places like Soho in New York or the Meatpacking District, once affordable neighborhoods inhabited by artists, real estate prices have skyrocketed. The studios were no longer viable, but the ground floor spaces housed important galleries and specialty shops, allowing it to retain an artsy vibe.

Moncada, now based in Rome and London, maintains a private gallery and continues to organize and contribute to major international museum exhibitions. The archival work remains an ongoing commitment, she says, dedicated to preserving the artistic legacy of her family and Margutta and their roles in Roman cultural history. (For more information on the Studi Patrizi archives or to make an appointment to see them: and/or )