Cecil Ross Pinsent (1884-1963)
Cecil Pinsent was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on May 5, 1884. At the age of eight, the family returned to England, where he attended preparatory school. He was elected as a student member of the Architectural Association at the young age of sixteen in 1901. With this honor, he was able to work at an architectural practice during the day and complete studio work and critiques from the school’s tutors during the evenings. In 1905, Pinsent was accepted into the Royal Academy of Architecture. During his studies, he was able to work with and be tutored by some of the most influential architects of the day; most notably, Reginald Blomfield, author of The Formal Garden in England.
After being encouraged to travel as part of his architectural studies, Pinsent moved to Florence in the autumn of 1906. However, at the beginning of World War I, Pinsent joined the British Red Cross taking charge of a mobile X-ray unit. By the end of the war, he was finally able to develop his own architectural practice in Florence. He eventually became the architect of choice for the Anglo-American expatriate community in Florence including Bernard Berenson, members of the Florentine nobility and even several crowned heads of Europe. He was named a Fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects in 1933.
It wasn’t until shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War that Pinsent left Italy and retired to England. He returned to Florence during the Allied occupation as an officer with the MFAA, where his extensive familiarity and knowledge of the great Tuscan villas and gardens proved an invaluable resource for Pinsent and his fellow MFAA officers. During his work with the MFAA, Pinsent examined structural damage in many Italian regions including Emilia, Lombardia, and Toscana. Because of his devotion to his work, he is credited today with much of the repair work administered to villas in and around the city of Florence.
Following the end of the war, Pinsent stayed in Italy for some time before returning to England. After a decline in health, he moved to Switzerland before dying on December 5, 1963.
Photo courtesy of the Walter Gleason Collection, The Monuments Men Foundation Collection, the National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.