Raissa Calza

Raissa Samojlovna Calza (née Gourevitch; 15 December 1894 – 24 January 1979) was a Ukrainian dancer who became a prominent classical archaeologist of Roman portraiture. When she was young, she fled to Italy and France following the Russian revolution.

Raissa Calza
Raissa Calza.jpg
Raissa Samojlovna Gourevitch

(1894-12-28)28 December 1894
Odessa, Ukraine
Died24 January 1979(1979-01-24) (aged 84)
Rome, Italy
Burial placeOstia, Lazio, Italy
Other namesRaissa Lork
EducationÉcole du Louvre
  • Ballet dancer
  • actor
  • archaeologist
Spouse(s)Georgij Krol', Giorgio de Chirico, Guido Calza
AwardsItalian Medal of Merit for Culture and Art, 1967

After studying archaeology at the École du Louvre, she returned to Italy and began working at the Ostia Antica excavation site, where she met her third husband Guido Calza. She published many books on the archaeological sites in Ostia and was recognized for her efforts with a gold Italian Medal of Merit for Culture and Art on 2 June 1967. She died in 1979 and was buried at the Church of Sant'Ercolano near Ostia Antica.

Early lifeEdit

Raissa Samojlovna Gourevitch was born in Odessa on 15 December 1894, to a wealthy Ukrainian Jewish family. Her parents, Samuil and Berta, owned estates in Poland and Finland, but Gourevitch grew up in Saint Petersburg until 1918.[1] After studying and at the suggestion of her father, Raissa became a dancer and actress. In the Russian theater scene, she met her first husband Georgy Krol' (1893–1932), a Russian Jewish director.[2]

Following the Russian Revolution, Gourevitch and Krol' were forced to flee Ukraine and they immigrated to Turin, Italy, in 1919. As a couple, they traveled often to produce or act in theater productions—they lived in Rome from 1920 to 1921 and then in Berlin from 1921 to 1922.[3][4]

De Chirico's designs for The Death of Niobe play that Gourevitch performed in

In 1923, in Rome, Gourevitch was offered the opportunity to be the lead ballerina for a production of L'Histoire du soldat directed by Hermann Scherchen at the Teatro degli Undici.[1] The artist Giorgio de Chirico saw the production and invited her to play the lead in a production of The Death of Niobe—a surrealist "mime tragedy" that he was producing with his brother Alberto Savinio.[5] Gourevitch accepted the lead and performed under the pseudonym "Raissa Lork" on 14 May 1925; her husband designed the set and de Chirico the costumes (Raissa was dressed as Pierrot). Gourevitch and Krol' traveled together with a theatre troupe at the end of 1924, but at the end of the trip, Gourevitch left Krol' and moved to Paris. She married De Chirico shortly after in 1925.[6]

In Paris, Gourevitch studied archaeology at the École du Louvre, taking classes taught by Charles Picard, although she never received a formal degree.[1] She and De Chirico continued to travel often as De Chirico worked on sets for theatre productions,[7] but their marriage ended in 1930 when de Chirico eloped with Isabella Pakszwer Far. Gourevitch divorced de Chirico in 1931,[8] and then returned to Rome.[3][9]


Because of her lack of formal qualifications, Gourevitch couldn't find work as an archaeologist, but became a photographer and assistant at the Ostia Antica site near Rome in 1937. There she worked under the superintendent of the excavations, Guido Calza.[10] They married in 1945, but Guido Calza died only a year later in April 1946. Raissa Calza was active at the Ostia archaeological site from 1935 to 1968.[11]

One of Calza's early successful publications was her account, in 1949, of the Ostian "Sanctuary of Cybele", which had been excavated during the early 1940s.[12] By 1950, through her work at the site and her many publications, Calza became known as an expert in Roman portraiture and sculpture, particularly funerary sculpture.[13][14]

Marguerite Yourcenar visited Calza in Ostia while she was preparing a new illustrated edition of Memoirs of Hadrian between the end of 1951 and the spring of 1952, and the two kept up their correspondence after the visit.[15] From 1 January 1956 to 3 January 1957, Calza helped the Gabinetto fotografico nazionale archive to organize and categorize its photographic collection of Roman statuary[16] In 1958 to 1959, she was the first scientific collaborator with the Fototeca di Architettura e Topografia dell’Italia Antica.[15]

Calza's writing as an archaeologist and academic was supplemented by her skill with languages: she knew Russian, French, Italian, English, and German.[17] She was also known for discerning details in stereotypical classical sculpture,[18] although the archaeologist Margaret L. Laird has criticized her work on sculptures in the Ostian "Sede degli Augustali" as "fraught with iconographic difficulties" for her misidentification of statues on the site as imperial cult portraits.[19]

To recognize her contribution to Italian archaeology, Calza was conferred the gold Italian Medal of Merit for Culture and Art on 2 June 1967.[20]


Calza died in Rome on 24 January 1979 in a nursing home run by the Sisters of Charity.[1] She was buried at the Church of Sant'Ercolano near Ostia Antica, near her husband Guido.[21][22]


Calza left her photographs of Ostia and her personal library and letters to a foundation that divided her archive between the Ostia and the humanities library of the University of Siena[11] Most of the photographs of Ostia come from a period of extensive excavation undertaken at the direction of the government of Benito Mussolini from 1939 and 1942.[14]

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • Calza, Raissa (1958). Scavi di Ostia III: Le Necropoli. Parte 1: Le tombe di età repubblicana e Augustea. Istituto poligrafico dello Stato.[23]
  • Calza, Raissa (1947). Museo Ostiense. Rome: Libreria dello Stato.[24]
  • Calza, Raissa (1955). Cronologia ed identificazione dell' "Aggripina" Capitolina. Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana.
  • Calza, Raissa; Nash, Ernest (1959). Ostia. Florence: Sansoni.[25]
  • Calza, Raissa (1964). Scavi di Ostia V: I Ritratti, Parte I: I Ritratti greci e romani fino al 160 circa d. C. Istituto poligrafico dello Stato, Libreria dello Stato.[26]
  • Calza, Raissa (1972). Iconografia romana imperiale. Da Carausio a Giuliano (287-363 d.C.). Rome: L'erma di Bretschneider.[27]
  • Pisani Sartorio, Giuseppina; Calza, Raissa (1976). La villa di Massenzio sulla via Appia : il palazzo, le opere d'arte. Istituto di studi romani.[28]
  • Calza, Raissa (1977). Antichità di Villa Doria Pamphilj. De Luca.[29]
  • Calza, Raissa (1978). Scavi di Ostia IX: I ritratti. P. 2: Ritratti Romani dal 160 circa alla metà del III secolo d. C. Istituto poligrafico dello Stato.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d Tavi, Leila (22 December 2019). "Raissa Calza: The Muse Of Giorgio De Chirico With A Passion For Ancient Rome". E-go Times. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  2. ^ Piccolo, Laura. "Raisa Samujlovna Gurevič, Krol ', De Chirico, Calza Raissa Lork". russinitalia.it (in Italian). Russians in Italy. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Raissa Calza Fund". sba.unisi.it/ (in Italian). University of Siena. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  4. ^ Garetto, Elda; Piccolo, Laura. "Georgij Aleksandrovič Krol'". russinitalia.it (in Italian). Russians in Italy. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Arturo Bragaglia 1893-1962 - Pierrot futurista 1925". invaluable.com. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  6. ^ Holzney, Magdalena (2005). Giorgio de Chirico, 1888-1978 : the modern myth. Cologne: Taschen. p. 94. ISBN 3-8228-4152-8.
  7. ^ There are several portraits of Raissa by de Chirico from this time.
  8. ^ "Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, biography". fondazionedechirico.org (in Italian). Giorgio and Isa de Chirico Foundation. Archived from the original on 14 July 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  9. ^ de Chirico, Giorgio (2013). Memorie della mia vita (in Italian). Giunti. ISBN 9788858761021. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  10. ^ Boin, Douglas (2013). Ostia in late antiquity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02401-4.
  11. ^ a b "Fondo Raissa Calza". www.censimento.fotografia.italia.it (in Italian). Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  12. ^ Welles, C. Bradford (January 1949). "Archaeological Digest". American Journal of Archaeology. 53 (1): 60–75. doi:10.2307/501215. JSTOR 501215.
  13. ^ "One of the leading living specialists in Roman iconography".Toynbee, J. M. C. (24 September 2012). "R. Calza, Scavi Di Ostia, V: I Ritratti, Parte I: Ritratti Greci E Romani Fino Al 160 Circa D.C. Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1964. Pp. 127, with frontispiece in colour and 107 half-tone plates. L. 30,000". Journal of Roman Studies. 56 (1–2): 262–263. doi:10.2307/300172. JSTOR 300172.
  14. ^ a b "The studies of Raissa Calza contributed, to the fields of portraiture and funerary sculpture in particular, to find the specifics of local production and to identify Ostian workshops ... In the year 1950, Raissa, universally known as the "Signora Calza" (so, in Italian, she is also cited in most scientific papers in foreign languages), had an authoratiative reputation in the study or Roman art.""Gli studi di Raissa Calza hanno contribuito, in particolare nel campo della ritrattistica e della scultura funeraria, a individuare le specificità di una produzione locale e a identificare le officine ostiensi ... Negli anni ’50 Raissa, ormai universalmente nota come la "Signora Calza" (così, in italiano, è citata anche in moltissimi testi scientifici in lingua straniera), aveva la reputazione di autorevole studiosa di arte romana. " Shepherd, Elizabeth J. (2009). "Lungo il Tevere. Da Roma a Ostia, un Percorso per Immagini". Da Ostia a Roma e Oltre: Raissa Calza e la Fotografia. Bononia University Press. pp. 115, 116. ISBN 978-8873954781.
  15. ^ a b Shepherd 2009, 117.
  16. ^ "From 1 January 1956 to 3 January 1957, Raissa Calza came to Gabinetto fotografico nazionale, in the historic seat of via Miranda 5, with the scope to reorganize and subject the numerous archeological photos, and more precisely the historic sculpture present in the roman collection." "Dal 1° gennaio 1956 al 3 gennaio 1957 Raissa Calza venne distaccata presso il Gabinetto Fotografico Nazionale, allora nella storica sede di via in Miranda 5, con lo scopo di riordinare e soggettare le numerose foto di soggetto archeologico, e più precisamente di scultura antica presenti nelle collezioni romane" Shepherd 2009, 116.
  17. ^ To the gifts of reading and writing, Raissa united the knowledge of more languages: Russian, obviously, and French, studied at the end of childhood; then English, German, and Italian. "Alle doti di lettrice e scrittrice Raissa univa quella della conoscenza di piu linguie: il russo, ovviamente, e il frances, imparato fine da piccola; poi l'inglese, il tedesco e l'italiano." Shepherd 2009, p. 115
  18. ^ "She has a vivid and sympathetic eye for detail: the funerary relief of the mother dead in childbirth, with her dead baby between her knees; the bones of pets in the cemetery; the Vandal barges passing, loaded with the loot of Rome" MacKendrick, Paul; Calza, Raissa; Nash, Ernest (July 1961). "Ostia". American Journal of Archaeology. 65 (3): 329. doi:10.2307/501713. JSTOR 501713.
  19. ^ Laird, Margaret L. (2000). "Reconsidering the So-Called "Sede degli Augustali" at Ostia". Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. 45: 41–84. doi:10.2307/4238765. JSTOR 4238765.
  20. ^ "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". www.quirinale.it. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Church of Sant'Ercolano". ostia-antica.org. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  22. ^ "St. Herculanus' Church - Archaeological park of Ostia Antica - Archaeological Sites and Monuments". Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  23. ^ Review of Scavi di Ostia III:
  24. ^ Review of Museo Ostiense:
  25. ^ Reviews of Ostia:
  26. ^ Reviews of Scavi di Ostia V:
  27. ^ Reviews of Iconografia Romana Imperiale:
  28. ^ Reviews of La villa di Massenzio sulla via Appia:
  29. ^ Reviews of Antichità di Villa Doria Pamphilj:
  30. ^ Review of Scavi di Ostia IX:

Further readingEdit