©Patrick Richmond Nicholas 1988-2020


The Bellissima!  Project


A project for a TV Reality Show featuring women of a wide age range, from all walks of life, taking part in a daring venture in which they throw off their inhibitions to pose naked for art’s sake. The format calls for modern muses to rival those found by the old masters, in order to create contemporary artworks with something new to say. It is not in any way competitive, it is simply about matching the work of the old master to the modern muse. Ultimately, every woman who takes part is bellissima in her own way.

Patrick Nicholas has been preparing pictures based loosely on works of art for over 30 years and has a lot of experience. The women however are all amateurs and they perform gratis, for the love of art.


To illustrate the concept, the artist and photographer Patrick Richmond Nicholas, has assembled documentary material shot from 2004 to the present in a 10 min video called Bellissima!

Film makers: Paolo Ganzi, Leo Colla, Bill Kits. 

previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow
previous arrownext arrow

The Format

A number of women participate in each series of 10 episodes. We see the woman in her day to day life. We learn something of her interests, her work, her family, her background. She will explain what drew her to take part – this is important in the selection process. The woman herself, if she has an interest in art will be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to choosing the old master painting, sculpture, or even poem or song that she will be taking part in. Her opinion is extremely important. She can make suggestions, she can reject a work of art she does not feel comfortable with or enthusiastic about.



Essentially a Pilot

The 28m Swiss TV documentary from 2007, Women Portraying Art, is essentially a pilot in which we see the women at home and work, hear their feelings about the shoot and more. In Italian with English subtitles. Director Leo Colla.



Who has the XX factor? Some women will drop out along the way in order to add an element of suspense – who will go through to actually collecting her finished picture and appearing in the final exhibition in a gallery? Some will simply change their minds, some will be too embarrassed, some will have someone close who does not approve, some will  prove to be unsuitable for some reason – this is always the hardest but it is rare.



Casting is always in normal clothes. We never see the woman naked before she is selected. The prospective model should be a lot more than just looking right for the role – her personality is vital to the success of the episode. It is very important to create an atmosphere of both mystery and suspense. The surprise element on the day, on set, is always important. However, women may supply recent photos of themselves as part of the casting process – but nothing explicit.



The Shoot.

If possible we construct some sort of set. The theatrical element is important, but theatrical in a way that creates a sense of ease as well as  fantasy. We try to avoid Green Screen/Chroma key as this inevitably leads to a cold atmosphere. If possible we prefer to use a black background.

Make-up is an important part of putting the woman at her ease and of raising her self esteem before the shoot starts. Even if the make-up itself is not all that relevant or even hardly seen, it is important. Simonetta the make-up artist, is always present on set to provide assurance as well as assistance with styling.


Photography Gallery


The Exhibition

At the end of the series an exhibition will be held in a fashionable location and/or gallery. Each picture will be printed in a numbered edition of 10. Press and TV will be invited. There will be awards given, but not on account of the individual’s beauty. The three pictures chosen will result in participation in another series to be shot on location abroad, in Italy – the land of Renaissance Art.


The Belle Book

At the end of each series a book is published. This will be essentially a catalogue with the story behind each picture. The profits will go to a charity chosen by the women themselves. Take a musical flip through the book below – you can stop where you like.



The Woman’s Point of View

How did the women themselves feel about posing naked for art’s sake? British women’s magazine Easy Living by Condé Nast asked three of the women who took part: why did they do it? How did they feel during the shoot? Any misgivings? Read the interviews below in Portrait of a Lady and find out.

It is important that each woman expresses why taking part is important to her, her hopes and fears, any particular personal hang-ups. Her thoughts about the shoot and the final picture. Several of the women have written about the experience for women’s magazines. 

These can be seen here clicking on the image below.




Would you like to be a protagonist in the Bellissima! project? We are always on the lookout for that extraordinary, ordinary woman who is…………………. bellissima!

Please fill in the contact form and attach a recent snapshot of yourself. You must be more than 18 years old.

Contact Patrick about Bellissima

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject (required)

Your Message (required)

Please attach a recent head-shot photo (required, less than 2 MB)


Portrait of a Lady

Read the articles published on various magazines about the portraits.

Easy Living’s Portrait of a lady

In an amazing ongoing photographic project, Patrick Nicholas takes classic works of art and reinterprets them with modern women. Here, we find out how the subjects feel about taking their clothes off in the name of art… THE WOMAN:  Rosaria BASED ON:  ‘The Birth Of Venus’ by Botticelli ROSARIA’S STORY:  “Three years ago, Patrick described ...

Madison magazine – Portrait of a Lady

  CLASSIC PAINTINGS ARE GIVEN A MODERN MAKE-OVER WITH REAL WOMEN BARING ALL FOR ART Over the past 20 years, Italy-based British photographer Patrick Nicholas has been reinterpreting classic paintings with the help of volunteers. It’s not for charity, the women haven’t been paid and they’re not models or actresses. Rather, they’re regular Italian women ...

Cleo magazine, Australia: Portrait of a Lady

Imagine your image living on in the name of art. The idea sounded great to Australian journalist Katia Sanfilippo. Then she realised she’d be completely naked……..   I’m nude, bar a red pashmina covering my bits, in a room filled with strangers. Odder still, I’m but seconds away from losing the pashmina. I feel cool ...

The Sunday Times Magazine’s The paint strippers

The art-deco artist de Lempicka used ‘a Parisian prostitute as her model for one of the 20th century’s most sensual paintings. Nearly 80 years on, the photographer Patrick Nicholas and the journalist Nicholas Farrell, who collaborated on this special project, needed to find the right model to flesh out their daring reinterpretation. “We convinced a ...

previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrownext arrow


What is it like posing for those who have never done anything like it before ? Many women have recounted their experiences of posing in their own words either on video or in print. Here are some examples drawn from the blog. If anyone is interested in posing they should contact Patrick Nicholas.