Federigo Angeli & Lola Costa

In May, 1935, Federigo and Carola Angeli moved to Il Palmerino with their children Matelda (Federigo’s daughter from his first marriage), Giuliano and the newborn Fiorenza. The couple’s last child, Beatrice, was born at Il Palmerino.

 

Federigo (b. 1891) was originally from Castelfiorentino. He was the first of four children and began apprenticing with his painter-decorator father Angiolo Angeli at a very young age. His artistic abilities and talent as a draughtsman were recognised early and he would win several awards for his skills. Together with his brothers Alberto and Achille, Federigo transformed his father’s workshop into a successful enterprise that played a key role in exporting Florentine tastes and styles worldwide, by authoring and exporting  painstaking reproductions of major art works from the Renaissance.

 

Carola, also known as ‘Lola’, was the daughter of Girolamo Costa, scion of a large Genoese family who had emigrated to London where he founded the company, Costa Ltd. Her mother, Marie Louise Lessieur, was of French and Scottish descent. Born in London in 1903, Carola had a mainly bourgeoisie upbringing, and she studied painting, music and literature in the British capital.

 

The couple met in Florence in the 1930s. Following the Bottega degli Angeli’s international success, Federigo felt the need to perfect his English with a private teacher, and placed a request with the Berlitz language school. Carola, a teacher at their Paris office at the time, heard of opportunity and jumped at the chance to live in an artistic city like Florence. She responded to the job offer with Godspeed and immediately moved to Italy. According to family anecdotes, Federigo never learned English, but, almost as a quid pro quo, he fell in love with his teacher, and the couple married in 1932.

 

They chose the Il Palmerino property which they found well-suited to their growing family. It fit Carola’s need for open space and a garden of her own, like the one she’d had in London, to remind her of home. Her bond with Il Palmerino was immediately apparent, as soon as she stepped through the gates of the villa. Certainly, the villa’s previous owner, Vernon Lee, had imbued the place with a bit of English taste, which made her nostalgic for her homeland. 

The couple would make some changes to the villa straightaway, creating a large painting studio where they could both work together, on the same subjects. Federigo also created an Italian garden in front of the middle house, which which they would chose as their main residence, because it was a more comfortable setting for the young family's daily life. During their first few years at Il Palmerino, some of Vernon Lee’s servants stayed on to work for them, but things would change with the onset of World War II. Their home was partially bombed by the Germans, and the staff was considerably reduced.

 

Although her parents would advise her to the contrary, Carola insisted on staying at Il Palmerino, defending her choice with enormous sacrifice. She taught her children that you could go without food and be willing to sacrifice everything, as long as  you did not have to abandon even the most simple clod of earth. Her viewpoint is likely the reason why Il Palmerino has remained in the family, whose members continue to protect the place, keeping it vital and active today. Federigo died prematurely in 1952, whilst Lola took care of the property and her still young children. She would continue to paint and write poetry for the whole of her life and would die in 2004, at the age of 101.

Watch the documentary: 

Federigo and the Angeli Workshop: From the Oltrarno to the New World