letter to Mrs. Austin, April 1874
15, Via Magenta, Florence
April 25th, ‘74
Dear Mrs. Austin,
I have been waiting all this time to send this letter with one from Mama but she has been hindered by severe colds and getting ready to leave, and I will no longer postpone thanking you for the beautiful photos that you were so kind as to send me.
We are packing up in order to leave in the first week in May but the date of our departure is rendered rather uncertain by the provoking fact of my having sprained my ankle very severely two weeks ago on the stairs of the Academy; I am yet unable to use my right foot, and this prevents our leaving on the first of May as we had intended. Then our destination has changed by reports of Cholera in Venice and a unique artistic training in Paris, so that we are bound for the latter place where we hope we may perhaps meet you. The Academy in Paris is probably better than the one here and we hear that the French artists undoubtedly the best now-a-days, are willing to take pupils in their studios. I do not think however, that I am sufficiently advanced to enter a studio now, and I will probably have to study another year at the Academy. We go to Paris now for a short time to make enquiries about this, which will decide whether we go to Paris or not for the next winter. The unhappy Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence is the most unsatisfactory institution imaginable, human ingenuity has never contrived anything so unsatisfactory. It was closed for two months form Christmas to March while Professors and the Minister of Public Institution deliberated a thorough reform in its organisation, and when reopened the only perceptible change was that we, the students from the cast, were left without a Master, while the former Professor vacillated and still vacillates between resigning and continuing his instructions. However, this has been of no more consequence to me since my sprained ankle keeps me at home where I have a very handsome Neapolitan model to draw and paint, who plays on the Zampogna and tamburino and dances tarantellas for us when he is tired of sitting. I hope Mary perseveres in the Fine Arts and compels her model to dance when he is tired.
Yr. affect cousin,
John S. Sargent
(Letter to Mrs Austin from JSS 4/25/74, printed in Charteris' book, p. 19)