9 October 2021

Agostina Segatori – artist’s model and restaurateur

Van Gogh paid Italian café owner with works of art in exchange for meals

Agostina Segatori, painted by Jean- Baptiste-Camille-Corot in 1866
Agostina Segatori, painted by Jean-
Baptiste-Camille Corot in 1866 
Agostina Segatori, whose Italian looks inspired many of the top French painters in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1841 in Ancona, a seaport city in the region of Le Marche.

Little is known about Agostina’s early life, but she had moved to Paris before she was 20, because she posed for Edouard Manet’s painting, L’Italienne, there in 1860.

Over the next three decades she was to model for Edouard Joseph Dantan, Jean-Baptiste Corot, Jean-Leon Gerome, Eugene Delacroix and Vincent van Gogh.

Agostina had a relationship with Dantan that lasted 12 years. He is reputed to have referred to her as Madame Segatori-Morière, which implied she was married to a Monsieur Morière. She had an illegitimate son, Jean-Pierre, with Dantan. Their relationship was stormy and ended in 1884.

Despite having a failed relationship and becoming a single mother, Agostina continued to work as an artist’s model and carefully saved the money she earned.

In 1885 she invested her savings in a café with an Italian theme, the Café du Tambourin. It became a hotspot for artists, writers and critics. The Café du Tambourin was originally at 27 Rue de Richelieu, but it reopened later the same year at 62 Boulevard de Clichy.

Van Gogh's painting of Agostina
Segatori in the Café du Tambourin
Regular visitors included Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. Poster artist Jules Cheret created a poster for the café featuring Agostina. In the picture, she is holding a tambourine-shaped tray in her hands.

The artists who were regulars at Café du Tambourin were to transform the interior into a fascinating gallery of paintings. Vincent van Gogh frequented the café after moving to Paris in 1886 and embarked on a romance with Agostina, presenting her with still life paintings in exchange for food. His painting of Agostina sitting at a table in the Café du Tambourin is now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Agostina’s business later declined and she fell into debt. The café, along with the artworks on its walls, was repossessed. Agostina never recovered from her financial downfall and suffered ill health until her death in Paris in 1910.

Travel tip:

Ancona, where Agostina Segatori was born, is a port city surrounded by medieval villages. Ancona’s Cathedral dates back to the 11th century and the city still has a fine Roman monument, the Arch of Trajan, which was built in about 114 AD to honour Trajan, the emperor who ordered Ancona’s harbour to be built.  Ancona’s harbour contains the Lazzaretto, a pentagonal building constructed on an artificial island in the 18th century as a quarantine station designed to protect the city from diseases carried by infected travellers.

Travel tip:

Ancona is the capoluogo - capital city - of Le Marche, which is an eastern region of Italy, located between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic. It is bordered by Emilia-Romagna and the republic of San Marino to the north, Tuscany to the west, Umbria to the southwest and Abruzzo and Lazio to the south. A railway from Bologna to Brindisi runs through the region along the coast.  Urbino, one of the major cities of the region, was the birthplace of Raphael and to the north of Urbino, the seaside resort of Pesaro, was the birthplace of the composer Gioachino Rossini.

Also on this day:

1221: The birth of Salimbene di Adam, friar and historian

1469: The death of Fra’ Filippo Lippi, Renaissance painter

1562: The death of anatomist and physician Gabriele Falloppio 

1963: The Vajont Dam disaster


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