Herbert Colborne Oakley   (1869 - 1944)
Biography - Settignano, Italy

Italy Settignano.

A tranquil residential district
located on one of the hills
overlooking the city of Florence.

The following description, and some photographs, of Settignano, near Florence Italy, an area with an incredible artistic heritage, is reproduced by kind permission of www.Settignano.com.

"Settignano, a tranquil residential district located on one of the hills overlooking the city of Florence, shares its artistic fame with nearby Fiesole. The original village was probably founded by an important Roman family, thus fundus Septinianus, when Florentia was chosen as the residence of the united regions of Etruria and Umbria." Tranquil Settignano
Settignano's famous sons "The name of Settignano is famous in the whole world thanks to her natural and adoptive sons, sculptors, architects and painters whose works of art adorn many museums. Desiderio da Settignano, Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino, Luca Fancelli, Meo del Caprina, the Ciolis and the Lorenzis were all born in Settignano, as was the painter Bartolomeo Bimbi. Other artists and scholars, such as Michelangelo, Niccoló Tommaseo, Telemaco Signorini and the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio lived in Settignano and were inspired by its harmonious landscapes."
"Because of its vicinity to the famous quarries of Maiano and Trassinaia, Settignano also produced a multitude of lesser known artists, artisans, quarriers, carvers and stone masons who embellished the palaces of Florence during the Renaissance and introduced Florentine Renaissance artistic theories into many other cities in Italy as well as France and Spain (i.e. the Juste brothers and Domenico Fancelli)." Famous quarries

Again there are limited details of his life in Italy.  Most comes from the letters sent back to a friend in Southampton, that were probably expected to end up, as they did, as articles in an English newspaper.  These clearly show his love for Italy, its culture, customs, scenery and people.

He compares, with some concern, the physique of the Italian children to his own in England:

"Being, as becomes an artist, a constant observer of form in the way of Beauty and strength of the human body, I do not hesitate to say that the average Italian child is better built, and probably stronger, than is the English child.  Too foolishly and too long we in England have followed the fetish of meat eating and our boasted white bread, robbed, as it is, of the bone-making qualities necessary to body building and the growth of good teeth."

In all the visits that he made to Italy, it is interesting that the area he appears to have spent the vast majority of his time in, was Settignano, which may not be all that surprising given the beauty of the area as he saw it.  The vale of the Arno in particular, inspired him to wax eloquently on its splendor, especially during late evening.

"... and I could discern the Arno winding along, lost to view sometimes, and then discoverable as its waters wandered where they listed, far away, nameless in tints of amethystine colour and fading gold and faintest lavender; high mountains, clear cut against a dusky green and purpling sky; far away the vale of lovely Vallombrosa, blue, blue and palest lavender, from which more mountains rose snow covered ..."

Settignano's artistic heritage, coupled with that of nearby Florence, were probably equally important to him as reasons for choosing this area of Italy for both work and relaxation.

Possibly to leave a legacy of sorts, he took advantage of the artistic talent that resided in the area to have a bronze cast made of him by the sculptor Signor O. Calastri of Florence.

HCO sculpture Left: A cast of the artist
at the studio of the sculptor Signor Olinto Calastri (1881-1963)
in Florence.

Above: A sketch of the sculptor by the artist.

As is the case with his work in Mory-Montcrux, we have available to us a quantity of sketches of people from the area, but unfortunately no portraits. Again, it is more than likely that a considerable number were painted.  Hopefully we may become aware of some of them and be permitted to add them to this web site.

A Scopetani 'Dante'

A Scopetani "Dante"
Roenato Pratesi

Roenato Pratesi
A Settignano Elder

A Settignano Elder

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"The H. C. Oakley Virtual Gallery" Copyright © 2005-2013 Andrew Gray