BURIED TOGETHER

Partner Hélène de Kuegelgen, buried together

Queer Places:
Via di S. Nicola da Tolentino, 00187 Roma RM, Italia
Campo Cestio, Via Caio Cestio, 6, 00153 Roma RM, Italia

Image result for Dora Ohlfsen-Bagge'''Dorothea "Dora" Adela Ohlfsen-Bagge''' (22 August 1869 - 9 February 1948) was an Australian pianist, painter, sculptor, spy and particularly a medallist. She worked in Australia, Spain, Germany, Russia and Italy and created medals of people including David Lloyd George, H. H. Asquith, Mussolini and Formia war memorial in Italy. She created a medal to celebrate the first ANZAC day in 1916. She and her Russian lifelong partner were accidentally gassed at her studio in Rome in 1948.

Dorothea "Dora" Adela Ohlfsen-Bagge was born on 22 August 1869 in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia,[1] the daughter of Christian Herm Ohlfsen-Bagge, contractor for the Gong Gong reservoir who was originally from Scandinavia, and Kate Harison, Australian. Her father built the Bondi sewer. Her great-grandfather, Robert Howe, was the Victorian Government Printer in the early days.

Ohlfsen-Bagge attended Sydney High School, and in 1883 studied music in Berlin, at Theodor Kullak's Neue Akademie der Tonkunst, under Moritz Moszkowski.

From 1889 to 1894 she was a pianist in New South Wales and a pupil of Henri Kowalski. When in 1920 neuritis prevented her playing the piano,[2] she moved out of Australia to be a sculptor and specialized in medal engraving.

Ohlfsen went to Russia, and there she taught, wrote and began to study painting. She was employed as a spy by the American ambassador who wanted her to tell him about life at the Russian court.[3] She moved to Italy in 1902 with her companion, the Russian Baroness Hélène de Kuegelgen. She studied at the French Academy in Rome under Dubois and Pierre Dautel. At the time the French Academy was reserved for French artists who obtained the Prix di Rome. It was founded by Louis XIV of France. The Academy honoured her with an invitation to become a pupil. She had nine pieces accepted at the Salon (Paris), among which were the portraits in silver of the Princess Maria Rospigliosi (formerly the American heiress Marie Reid Pankhurst), a portrait in lead of Baroness Helene Kuegelen, another of Josef Alteneisel, Prince-Bishop of Brixen in the Tyrol, of the Countess Lutzow, wife of the Austrian ambassador in Rome, and a medal titled "The Awakening of Art in Australia". Her next period of study in painting was at the Spanish Academy in Rome.

Among her smaller works were bronze bas-relief heads of Balfour, an Italian duke, Robert Randolph Garran (1921),, Mary Anderson, a bust of Nellie Stewart and a statuette of Eve Balfour.

In 1908 she exhibited a medal with the inscription "The Awakening of Australian Art" at the Franco-British Exhibition in Melbourne.[4]

Her 1910 portrait medallion of Gabriele d'Annunzio was placed in the Museum of the Petit Palais, Paris, for the Hundred Year Exhibition and Ohlfsen received the "immortality" by the French Government.

During World War I she worked for the Allies in Italy as a nurse. This experience inspiring her to create the Anzac Medal in 1916. The medal had the inscription, "Anzac. In Eternal Remembrance, 1914-18." It was a tribute to the "immortal bravery of the Australasians." The first issue of 500 medals was available at two guineas each. The funds raised were devoted to the needs of Australians and New Zealanders permanently disabled in the war.[5] [6] There are few of these medals now extant and these are in major institutions.

In 1920, under the patronage of Dame Margaret Davidson, she exhibited pastels and bronze medallions in Sydney. The visit to Australia was in connection with the selling of her Anzac medal, to help disabled soldiers of Australia and New Zealand. The medal was included in the exhibition and again there was also the medal "Awakening of Australian Art." Since 1911, the medal "Awakening of Australian Art" had been exhibited in the Petit Palais Museum, Paris, together with her portrait of Gabriele d'Annunzio. The pastels included several portraits: Miss Bobbie Macmillan, Miss Lilian Earp, Miss Alexandra Simpson, daughter of the British High Commissioner in China and later Mrs. Grey, There was also an impressionist drawing of Venice. The medallions included General Sir William Birdwood, David Lloyd George, H. H. Asquith, General Giuseppe Garibaldi II, a grandson of Giuseppe Garibaldi, Sir Charles Wade, William Holman, Cardinal William Henry O'Connell, Henry Normand MacLaurin, Edmund Barton, Eleanor Towzey Stewart, Donna Nicoleta Grazioli, and many other celebrities.[7] In 1921 she was commissioned to do a medallion portrait of the Australian Prime Minister, Billy Hughes.[8]

She was awarded gold medals for sculpture, painting and fresco work, both from the French than Italian Government. In 1926 she received a commission by the Italian Government for a War Memorial at Formia, "Sacrifice", at the time the only woman in Italy and the only non-Italian artist to achieve such distinction. The monument was 30 feet tall, and the marble figure at the base represents the grief of the citizens of Formia for their fallen war heroes. The inscription, translated into English, reads:—"O, my country! The life thou gave me I return to thee."[9] Mussolini said in tribute that she was now an "Italian Sculptress".

Later works are "Greek Chariot Race", models of fountains, garden sculptures, thr head of Dionysos in grey stone, "Primavera" in pink marble, "The Marchesa di Seta", "Guardian Angel" in pink stone, a mural painting of "St. Anthony of Padua" with Australian flowers, a mural painting of "St. Francis of Assisi" with Australian birds, a portrait of Mussolini, the bronze "Cossack".[10]

On 9 February 1948 she and her lifelong companion, Hélène de Kuegelgen, who was living with her, were found dead in the gas filled studio of Ohlfsen in Rome. The studio was next door to the Beda College, in the Via S. Nicola da Tolentino,[11] and they were living there for almost 50 years. Police said the deaths were accidental.[12]

The two women are buried together at the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, Campo Cestio, Zone 1.15.28, under the relief bust of the god Dionysius, one hand raised in a gesture of blessing.[13]


  1. ^ cite web|title=Ohlfsen, Dora Adela (1869–1948)|url=http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ohlfsen-dora-adela-14417|accessdate=10 October 2017
  2. ^ cite journal|title=21 February 1948|journal=Canberra Times|date=1948|page=2|url=http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ohlfsen-dora-adela-14417/text25497|accessdate=10 October 2017
  3. ^ Cite news|url=http://www.smh.com.au/national/doras-medal-honoured-women-left-to-grieve-too-20090424-ai1w.html|title=Dora's medal honoured women left to grieve, too|last=Meacham|first=Steve|date=2009-04-25|work=The Sydney Morning Herald|access-date=2017-10-11|language=en-US
  4. ^ cite journal|title=The Awakening of Australian Art - sab 19 set 1908|journal=The Argus|date=1908|page=4|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10181867|accessdate=10 October 2017
  5. ^ cite journal|title=The Anzac Medal - Dora Ohlfsen's Dedication to Bravery - gio 19 gen 1922|journal=The Register|date=1922|page=7|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/63700497|accessdate=10 October 2017
  6. ^ cite journal|title=Talented Australian Sculptor. Dora Ohlfsen's Success in Rome. - mar 2 feb 1926|journal=The Register|date=1926|page=4|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/64324141|accessdate=10 October 2017
  7. ^ cite journal|title=Art of Dora Ohlfsen - mar 9 nov 1920|journal=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=1920|page=7|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16874278|accessdate=10 October 2017
  8. ^ cite journal|title=Medallion Portrait of Mr. Hughes - mar 8 nov 1921|journal=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=1921|page=9|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15971459|accessdate=10 October 2017
  9. ^ cite journal|title=Australian Sculptress. Honoured in Italy. - mar 28 dic 1926|journal=The Register|date=1926|page=4|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/54824444|accessdate=10 October 2017
  10. ^ cite journal|title=Dora Ohlfsen, An Australian Sculptress in Italy - gio 21 feb 1935|journal=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=1935|page=6|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17150166|accessdate=10 October 2017
  11. ^ cite journal|title=News of Dora Ohlfsen - sab 15 lug 1933|journal=The Australian Women's Weekly|date=1933|page=24|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48075152|accessdate=10 October 2017
  12. ^ cite journal|title=TRAGIC DEATH OF SCULPTRESS - mar 10 feb 1948|journal=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=1948|page=1|url=http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/18060371|accessdate=10 October 2017
  13. ^ cite web|title=Artists in the Cemetery: two sculptors, four painters and the art dealer who loved Raphael|url=http://www.cemeteryrome.it/press/webnewsletter-eng/no25-2013-web.pdf|accessdate=10 October 2017