The Three Graces, Part 1: in the church

The shot of The Three Graces was on my list of projects for over six years, but I could never get three friends together at the same time.

The Three GracesKelsey and René at lunch just after we met.  Over lunch they decided to pose for Three Graces.

Two Canadian Women

Two beautiful Canadians, Kelsey and Renè walked into my Orvieto Gallery in mid October and looked attentively at the pictures both on the walls and in the racks. This is a good sign when I am looking out for women to model in my pictures. I introduced myself as the author, and we started chatting about the pictures. They were with a group of women on a yoga retreat and I felt that as they were wary of getting separated from the rest there wasn’t time to waste, so after just a few minutes  (I normally keep up the patter for longer) I came out with it, “I think you would really be good in a picture I’ve been planning for some time, The Three Graces!”  They seemed enthusiastic, but said they’d think about it over lunch. We fixed the shoot for 2 days later, Friday 20th.

Tamburino church, Orvieto

The former church (right) outside Orvieto, an Aladdin’s Cave of old motors and scooters. Orvieto is on the hill in the distance.

I had actually been planning the shot for over six years, ever since my friend Lucio showed me his old de-consecrated church on a hill outside Orvieto where he restored old motors and stored veteran Lambrettas for his friends. I thought they’d be  perfect for an update of The Three Graces, a favourite subject for painters and sculptors since the ancient Greeks.

The gestation had been long because I could never get three friends together at the same time or one would throw a wobbly. The most recent failure had been a week or so before.

3 Graces rough

pre-shoot rough sketch

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

First there were three friends from Arezzo. I sent them a sketch of what I had in mind; then  one dropped out and then another; no matter, I thought, since the remaining one had a certain resemblance to Grace Kelly I hit on the idea of using only her as all three Graces.

I dusted off the Lambrettas, arranged them in a line, took a few test shots of myself with battery lights, there was no electricity, and then ‘Grace’ backed out.

It was getting cooler, the days shorter the shooting season was ending, I was willing three girls to walk in the door. Then I met the Canadians.

I called in a Czech friend of mine to make up the third Grace and we moved the day so she could take part – then whilst Kelsey was at the hairdresser’s, she was called away an hour before the shoot. It was back to the idea of one for all.

I toyed with the idea of shooting the two girls and then cloning in my friend Alice another day, but rejected it as too complicated. It was a shame not to use the beautiful exotic looking Renè however, so after the church shoot we drove to Vulci near the coast to do some landscape shots, I was hoping I could use her as a Pirelli type calendar girl. The aim being to hang the ‘Cal’ on the mechanic’s wall in post production.

 The spoof Pirelli calendar shoot..

 Tourists visit the archeological park, to the remains of an Etrusco-Roman city, but  almost nobody ventures along the gorge of the river Fiora which always reminds me of ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ – one almost expects a pterodactyl to circle overhead rather than a hawk.
Amazingly for late October it was still just warm enough to do some shots in the water as the sun went down. Pirelli had the tropical waters of the Seychelles, we had to make do with an autumnal river in Tuscany. In my experience everybody has loved Vulci as a place to shoot. It feels remote and yet it’s little more than an hour from Orvieto.

Patrick Richmond Nicholas

Patrick poseur – a test shot done a few days before

Kelsey Renè


Kelsey and Renè at the hairdresser’s. I asked Rita to make Kelsey (L) look as much like Grace Kelly as possible in the short time we had available.

TamburinoOutside the former church where Franco had already set things up for our arrival. A sheet softens the light and provides a screen

prosecco in TamburionoProsecco time! I provided a bottle of pop to get the girls in a festive mood.

Dutch courage

Dutch courage and Kelsey is just about ready to pose

Franco and LambrettasFranco, restorer and owner of the red Lambretta lends a hand. He’s wearing overalls as I thought I might use him as a modern day Paris judging the three beauties.

lambretta mechanic FrancoThe problem was I only had two beauties, one couldn’t come at the last minute. So I fell back on my plan B, not the Judgement of Paris, with Franco holding an old speedometer as a latter day golden apple – the prize for the most beautiful in the original myth; but The Three Graces using just one model, the blonde Kelsey.

It was a shame not to use the exotic and voluptuous René so after the shoot we drove to the ravine at Vulci where we shot the Pirelli style ‘Cal’ pictures. I thought I could hang a calendar on the garage wall in post-production.

Vulci and one of  the Pirelli style 'Cal' pictures.

Vulci and one of  the Pirelli style ‘Cal’ pictures.

In Part 2  you can see  how we finished  “Three Graces” picture in post-production