José Gallegos had a very large apartment
in the via Ripetta in Rome. This was near the Piazza
del Popolo, and was above an apartment occupied by
‘Generale’ of the Jesuit order. The building was old
and evidently in need of restoration, for one day
cook, who like so many cooks was considerably overweight,
was shocked to find the kitchen floor collapsing underneath
her. She arrived through the ceiling of the Jesuits
apartments, which was strictly forbidden ground to
women. The priests
however took this as a miracle, and news of the event
was published the next day in the official Vatican
newspaper, the Osservatore
Romano, ”.... and
the priests cried falling to their knees, an
angel from heaven”.
José owned three studios joined together
at number 54 in the Via Margutta, where many other
painters had their studios. The studio was
heavily decorated with carved baroque mirrors and columns,
and with Greek and Roman statues around the walls.
It seemed more like
an antique shop with the many items which
he used as backdrops for his paintings. He loved beauty
in all its forms, and he always picked the prettiest
models he could find. At that time they were paid
lire a day, and for such a price they were expected
to remain in the studio for the whole day, whether
were being painted or not.
In addition to his apartment in the via Ripetta, he
built a large villa in the Parioli district above Rome,
not far from the Piazza Ungheria. In 1880 this was
not yet bult up, and was where Romans would go for
a day out in the country.
Every summer he would rent a villa at Nettuno on the
coast near Anzio. He liked shooting, and at Nettuno
he employed a ‘cacciatore’ called Anselmo to look after
his dogs. His main recreation, however, when on holiday
was painting the countryside around the villa in watercolours
or pastel, and some of these pictures and sketches still
remain in the artist’s family.
When he died, which was towards the end of the first
world war, he was owed large sums of money by his German
dealer. This posed great financial hardship on his widow,
who still had small children to bring up and educate.
When she was eventually
paid, it was in bundles of valueless German marks,
and as a result she had to
sell all of
José’s remaining paintings, the money from which she
used to start the ‘ Embassy tea-rooms’ near
the Spanish steps in Rome, and which soon was to
become a commercial success.
José had always had sufficient
success with his painting to be financially independent.
At the age of
sixteen he made his first sale, to an Englishman who
was watching him sketching a cathedral. He offered
one pound, which was accepted without hesitation; today
it may not appear to be much, but it certainly was
1873. One of his earliest paintings is of a Crippled
Boy which is in a private collection in Jerez.
Alongside his work he enjoyed life to the
full, travelling frequently , but rejecting
any publicity. He was rarely seen in any social
context, and may well have appeared to outsiders
as unsociable. The reason for this was that as he had
a ready market for his paintings at relatively high
prices and he did not need any publicity.
José died on the 21st September 1917 at two in the
morning, barely 12 hours after the death of Lucas
his eldest son by Constance.
was indeed a bitter blow for his widow to bear. He
from a stroke whilst watching a Corpus Christi procession
in Nettuno, and was buried there with Lucas. It seems
that his stroke
was a direct result of an accident whilst wild boar
hunting. In Italy wild boar are normally shot from
butts, but in this case there were no butts available,
and José was in a tree from which he fell and injured