Long before Fabio, the long-haired Italian who adorned the the covers of pulp romance novels for years, there was Antonio Corsi – considered to be the world’s first male super-model.
Antonio Corsi was born a gypsy in 1868 in the small town of Atina in the Lazio region of central Italy. As a youth, he traveled to England where he developed his artistic skills in order to earn enough to provide for his young wife, Kathryn. He soon found success as an art model and eventually posed for Queen Victoria’s daughter as a subject for a painting project and met the Queen herself. As his reputation grew, he posed for great artists of the period including painters John Singer Sargent and Pierre-Auguste Cot, and sculptors Daniel Chester French, James Earl Fraser and Cyrus Edwin Dallin.
With Corsi’s versatile image, he could pass for a Turk, Mexican, Native American, in addition to Mediterranean. He later appeared in silent movies finding a fair amount of success in 3 movies, False Women (1921), Prodigal Daughters (1923) and Bella Donna (1923). Corsi was said to have had an affair with a prominent but married actress of the era. Though Corsi found great financial success, he eventually lost his fortune.
Corsi moved to Highland Park, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and became known for his popular “spaghetti parties”. He and Kathryn had 3 children. Corsi died in 1924 at the fairly young age of 56 from tuberculosis, then referred to as “consumption”, and his name faded into obscurity shortly thereafter.
Many who are familiar with “Middletown, USA” will have seen him as “Chief Muncie”, the statue by Dallin located at the intersection of North Walnut Street and Granville Avenue in Muncie, Indiana. The statue is actually a one-third size replica of the original titled Appeal to the Great Spirit displayed in front of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Another Dallin replica, Passing of the Buffalo, was originally located at the Ball Stores building and is currently displayed in the downtown roundabout on South Walnut Street.
I prefer to act my parts on a painter’s platform. The actor dies and is forgotten. I live for hundreds of years – maybe thousands – in the famous paintings in which I appear.
– Antonio Corsi