Did Harriet Hosmer have tea at Babington’s? Did Edmonia Lewis? It’s so tempting to speculate. Before Babington’s Tea Shop opened, tea could be bought only in Italian pharmacies, as a sort of prescription remedy, presumably. In 1893, Isabel Cargill and Anne Marie Babington opened the eponymous shop, catering to English-speaking people in Rome from their 18th-century rooms at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
Sculptor and Matter collective design director Karen Meninno recently visited Rome and returns with tales of Babington’s and the beautiful Cafe Canova Tadolini. Several 19th century American sculptors, like Lewis and Hosmer, acquired studio space in the building that had been Antonio Canova’s spacious, light-filled workshop. Today the workshop is the Cafe Canova Tadolini, literally chockablock with marble sculpture by Canova and his students, the most famous of whom was Giulio Tadolini.
A virtual tour shows the dizzying array of work, hinted at in Karen’s photographs of the chic cafe-museum: