Index Museo Civico

Joseph Severn


The landscape and portrait painter Joseph Severn (1793 - 1879) came to Italy for the first time in 1820 to accompany the poet John Keats, who was seriously ill with tuberculosis. After Keats' death in 1821, Severn stayed in Italy for a further 20 years. He was also a friend of the poet Shelley whose portrait he painted at the Terme di Caracalla . He then  lived in England again until 1861 when he returned to Rome as the British consul to the Vatican State. He died on August 3, 1879 and is buried beside Keats in Rome's cemetery for non-Catholics. In addition to the numerous portraits of his poet friends, Severn left much correspondence which is preserved at Keats' House in London. <>. From this correspondence, only part of which has been transcribed, we learn that the painter and consul came to Tolfa in the summers of the years 1867 to 1874 to cure his severe rheumatism in the hot mineral waters of the Bagnarello. In his letter, which we publish here with the kind permission  of Keats House of London, in addition to praise of the curative powers of the waters and of the pure air of Tolfa, we find descriptions of the rural life of that period. Further information on Severn can be found in the website of the Keats and Shelley House of Rome <>