Girolamo Pieri Ballati Nerli (1860-1926), born in Italy, was the son of  nobleman Ferdinando Ballati Nerli Pieri Pecci and his wife Henrietta, daughter of Thomas Medwin, biographer of the poet Shelley and author of Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron, and Ann, Baroness Hamilton of Sweden. Nerli was sometimes called ‘Marchese’ although his correct title (honorific) was ‘Patrizio di Siena’. He arrived in Melbourne (where he shared a studio in Collins Street)  in 1885 and was known locally  as Signor Nerli. After one year he moved to Sydney where he joined the  sketch club attached to the Art Society of New South Wales where, in 1887-88, he probably met Charles Conder. Conder’s friend and colleague Arthur Streeton considered that Conder was much influenced by ‘the brilliant Nerli’ whose example thus assumes a special significance for Australian art at this time. Late in 1889 Nerli went to Dunedin, New Zealand, to assist in setting up the New South Wales loan collection for an international exhibition, in which he exhibited nine works. He returned to Sydney in 1890. Some time was spent in Melbourne painting bayside beaches, and Nerli may also have visited Hobart. In 1892 he was painting at Mosman Bay, Sydney, with Tom Roberts. In August he visited Apia in Samoa where he met and painted Robert Louis Stevenson, making portraits in oil, pastel and charcoal. Stevenson wrote some verse about Nerli in the painter’s autograph album.

The Beach at Sandringham