Photo credit: Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
I thought the uniforms of the soldiers (there seem to be two types present) might provide a clue if not the steps themselves. Not being an expert in these things I would value any suggestions.
This discussion is now closed. The location has been identified as the portico of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo. The title has been updated from ‘On the Cathedral Steps’ to ‘Home! After Service (after Frank William Warwick Topham)’ and the execution date amended from 1889 to 1879 (?). Biographies of Felix Robert Roffe and William John Roffe (no relation) have been added to our database (the latter not published online as there are no known works by W. J. Roffe in public collections).
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
The look like French foreign legionaires to me, The flaps of the coat are folded back, but their uniform coats curve up at the front when hanging properly. They also wear white trousers tucked into puttees and a square/rectangular backpack.
The British Museum has a drawing by a F R Roffe who it thinks was a relative of William Callio Roffe [an engraver of sculpture], Alfred T Roffe, and Edwin Roffe. He seem to have made drawings often after sculpture for J.S. Virtue and The Art Journal between 1849 and 1866
W C Roffe is in Rodney Engen's 1979 Dictionary of Victorian Engravers
I cannot read the date as 1889. Could the scene relate to the the struggle for Italian independence, and the troops may be Italian? The star on their caps should identify them
An architectural historian could probably identify the site represented see the lion and pilaster right
Felix Robert Roffe [1814-87] of St Pancras,brother of Alfred Thomas [1803-71], and Edwin [1825-91], see wikipedia and National Portrait Gallery which has a watercolour by F R - of Baron Lyndhurst
Robert Cabell Roffe [1780-1839]was their father
the inscripton reads delt
The uniforms do look French, especially the gaiters/spats but the costumes of the civilians seem more Italian to me. The scene could represent French soldiers in Italy.
The scene looks Italian. Note that this is a watercolour on paper, not a painting in the typical sense. This Roffe did not exhibit at the RA.
Roffe illustrated Turner in the Sydenham Crystal Palace expositor [sic]
He was coauthor in 1859 of Leeds, our grandfather's native village; illustrated his father's My Diary of sixty three days ..., published posthumously in 1858
On closer inspection there is a figure in the background, directly behind the lady in black, who has white and red plume in his hat this is the uniform of an Italian Carabinieri. They can still be seen wearing the uniform today.
my suspicion is that this is a copy of a work by a very much better known accomplished artist, possibly an Italian
The Museo del Risorgimento in Turin coukl probably provide the answers
Paul Nicholls of Studio Paul Nicholls, Milan should be shown this
Possibly the entrance to the basilica at Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. Not strictly a cathedral? You can just see the lions behind the people at the base of the columns and also the plaques/medaillions on the walls.
Risorgimento period possibly by dress and uniforms? but I'm not an expert.
Yes, Deidre, that seems to be a very good match:
Deirdre Hewgill is surely right about the church being Santa Maria Maggiore. Bergamo played an important part in the Risorgimento and the event depicted seems to be the aftermath of a battle, victory or other military celebration. Identification of the uniforms and dress will help with dating.
Given the setting , the painting copied is likely to be Milanese or Venetian , by someone like Mose Bianchi
This is definitely the porch of the church of Santa Maria Maggione in Bergamo, Italy, showing the entrance under the portico designed by Gionvanni da Campione in 1353. I know because we have a watercolour of the entire portico by Alexander Rimmington in 1904.
Also as to the uniforms, they are Italian army, which are very similar to the French legionaires, as they also have a coat that curves down from the centre front, wear white trousers with puttees or spats and a white cap, as in one of the jpgs of this watercolour. There is an illustration online of Italian 19th C. uniforms here:
The uniforms are definitely Italian infantry, of the early Kingdom of Italy period. And it is a Carabiniere at right background. Also no doubt that the cathedral is Santa Maria Maggiore at Bergamo, as pointe out by Ms Hewgill. Bergamo was one of the leading centres of agitation and recruitment for the 1848 and 1859-60 uprisings, and Garibaldi himself frequently visited during that period, the last time during the war of 1866. It will be a bit more difficult to pin-point the victory which presumably led to a celebratory function within the cathedral. Is the date on the painting 1859 or 1889? Not very clear.
From Giorgio Cantelli's 'Le Uniformi Del Regio Esercito Italiano Nel Periodo Umbertino (Vol. I, Parte 1), published in 2020, the attached composites show that this painting must date from after 1871 and that the army personnel depicted are definitely Italian and of definable standing.
The soldiers in the middle of this painting (the one sitting on the ground embracing his son and viewing his new-born baby, and the one who is being embraced so tightly and who stands with his plumed hat of black capercaillie feathers down by his left side) are members the Italian army's Bersaglieri corps of snipers or sharpshooters, who were founded in 1836. Judging by one of the attachments they are probably corporals. This style of plumed hat is unique to this group of soldiers and is still in use by them in the Italian army to this day.
The attached composites show similar uniform design details as seen here compared with those in Cantelli’s authoritative book.
The Stella d'Italia (Star of Italy), also known as the Stellone d'Italia (Great Star of Italy), symbolized Italy for many centuries. With the introduction of the Royal Decree no. 571 of 13th December 1871, the Stella d'Italia became one of the distinctive signs of the Italian Armed Forces' uniform and was a required feature to be worn from this date onwards.
The white stars can be seen on the collars and cap badges of several of the soldiers in the painting. If they had been painted in more details, their regimental mungers would be identifiable.
A comprehensive history of the use of the star by the Italian military included the following:
“The stars as we know them were prescribed for the first time for Infantry Officers in 1871 with the "Instruction on the Uniform of Infantry Officers" approved by RD (Royal Decree) of 2 April of that year. This "instruction" was followed by others and only with the Decree of 13 December 1871, n. 571, registered at the Court of Auditors on 28-12-1871, standardizing the various previous circulars in a single law, the pro-tempore Minister of War, Piedmontese General Cesare Ricotti Magnani.....adopted the five-pointed Masonic star on military uniforms, replacing the Savoy cross. The Decree verbatim prescribed that: "all persons subject to Military Criminal Jurisdiction, in accordance with art. 323 of the Military Penal Code for the Army and art. 362 of that for the Royal Navy, will carry, as a characteristic sign of the military uniform, common to the Army and....the Royal Navy, the five-pointed star on the collar of the dress of the respective uniform"."
The full text (in Italian) is here:
The link below, to an image of the 1866 battle of Custoza, from the Third Italian War of Independence, shows soldiers in similar garb to the infantrymen in pale blue and white in this Discussion's painting. However, the official changes in 1871 and 1872 to the army’s uniforms, especially with the inclusion of the white five-pointed stars on the collar tips and infantrymen’s caps, show that the painting dates from a time later than that battle and war, which ended on the 12th August 1866:
If the painting is by Felix Robert Roffe who died in 1887 then he cannot be the same artist as the Roffe who was active in 1889. There is, however, the possibility that the date on the canvas is actually 1879.
The painting possibly depicts a scene of reunion after a victory in some military campaign. A father embraces his son while being shown his newborn baby; a husband and wife embrace deeply after some difficult period of absence, and a young woman holds the hands of a lover in thanks for his safe return. The central figure of the lady in what are possibly her widow’s weeds, could represent those who are never coming home. A white dove, possibly symbolising peace, occupies a prominent central position.
If painted between 1871 and 1879, and possibly closer to the latter date, the question that military historians could answer is what significant military victory towards the end of the 1870s might have inspired the work.
Alternatively, if the painting does date from 1879, rather than being a scene depicting a post-war homecoming, it might have some connection to the death, in Rome on 9th January 1878, in the 29th year of his reign, of Victor Emmanuel II, the last King of Sardinia and first King of Italy.
One final mystery is to work out why, if it is by him, did Felix Robert Roffe paint such an Italian scene.
P.S. Why the jacket in the final attachment above is double-breasted is beyond my current understanding.
I had hesitated to make the following suggestion, since my proposed date was later than the dates under discussion. However, picking up on Kieran's suggestion of 18789, I would like to point out the widow in the centre (see attachment) standing on the steps with a small child- ( see my detailed image.) Her widow's weeds could easily date from 1879..1889...as could the little girl's short, yolked white dress. I think there is a second widow standing on the very far right of the painting.
If the painting can be dated to 1889, then the obvious military engagement would be the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1887-89. That might also explained the sun-darkened faces of the soldiers.
Obviously that then leaves the problem of who painted it, but it seems very unlike most of what Felix Roffe painted.
This a watercolour not an oil, and evidently a copy . Roffe painted watecolour copies
Has the collection taken this out of its frame to inspect the back of the paper?
If it is a copy it is surprising that the original is not so easy to find or better known. Could you give a direction as to where is the evidence that it is a copy?
I am awaiting information from Italy as the artist was a copyist and the original and subject certainly are both Italian . Trapped at home I have no access to major books devoted to Italian 19th century.The composition is of high quality and will surely be easily identifiable by specialists
Martin - I appreciate that both the form (watercolour on paper) and the comparatively small size suggest that this is a reduced copy from a larger oil painting, designed to then be reproduced. My problem is that all the copies I can find attributed to F Roffe (apart from this picture) consists of engravings from his drawings, usually from three-dimensional objects (statues, medallions, reliefs). There's no other full colour paintings as elaborate and accomplished like this.
So this seems unlikely to be the Felix Robert Roffe who dies on 27 June 1887. And if it was either that death date or the date of the painting must be wrong. And starting in a new medium at the age of 75 with such skill also seems unlikely.
The problem with any earlier date than 1889 is that Italy didn't really go to war with anyone between 1870 and 1887 (https://bit.ly/3tdJGNJ) and the uniform details suggest this can't be pre-1871. So the 1887-89 campaign in the Horn of Africa (confusingly the First Italo-Ethiopian War is actually a later conflict) would tie in with the date. And the uniformly sun-darkened troops would suggest fighting much further south rather than during Unification.
Attached are various documents relating to Roffe. Details within should reveal more about his life. The purchase by the V & A of 56 of his drawings of "the works of eminent sculptors" might, if they are signed, allow of a comparison of signatures.
I fullly accept that Roffe may not be our man
I should add that 1869 would fit the style of the original far better than 1889
Hi Martin, I am sorry this this comment is a little late but it is not possible to de-mount and de-frame the work.
Attached is a painting in watercolours, titled 'The Signal', attributed to Roffe.
Attached is an example, as it appeared in The Art Journal of 1849, of an engraving of 'Lavinia' after a drawing by Felix Roffe. As mentioned by Martin at the outset of this Discussion, although there are some references where Felix Roffe is credited as an engraver, most describe him as having executed the drawings after which other engravers, including his family members, made their works. The quality of his drawings suggests that Felix was a talented artist with a pencil and therefore could have been quite capable of producing watercolours of equal quality. As the census returns from 1851 through to 1881 show, he considered himself to be an "artist painter in watercolours" and not an engraver.
Irrespective of whether the painting is by Felix Robert Roffe or some other artist, the date of 1869 is not possible, given the detailed explanation above of the adoption of the 1871 and 1872 changes to the Italian army's uniform. If it is by Felix, the painting has to have been executed between 1871 and his death in 1887.
Attached are a few reference to Roffe's drawings.
Could one assume that these two attached characters in the painting are holding candles?
The answer to this discussion, "Where might this painting 'On the Cathedral Steps' be set?" would seem to be Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo (post by Deirdre Hewgill, 30/04/2021, and succeeding posts). Unless we think we can progress an attribution, is it time to close this discussion on the basis that we have reached a satisfactory answer?
Since no ideas have been forthcoming on attribution and given that the discussion question has been answered, is it time for Art UK to approach one or more of the group leaders with a view to closing this discussion?
It might be worth showing this to Giorgio Marini at the Uffizi who is a specialist on prints and is very familiar with Italian painting of the third quarter of the 19th century
A historian of Bergamo in that period might be able to pin down the subject in a more focussed way as well. Has anybody asked the Accademia Carrara?
I don't think that we have by any means reached the end of possible areas to reseach
The uniforms could be pursued further too
The staff of the Museo Storico di Bergamo could be approached too
An Italian might recognise this work through a contemporary engraving
The print dealer Arialdo Ceribelli of the Galleria Ceribaldi will know of sources for information of prints featuring Bergamo of this period
and then there are museums devoted to the Risorgimento and events relating to it later in the century
Could this celebrate a family involved?
Bergamo this year is joint captal of culture with Brescia - so it is the right time for turning up research which might help us
2 June is the annual festival of the Republica in Bergamo
Nearby Brescia has a Museo del Risorgimento
It's always hard to know when to stop, but it seems a good idea to make these Italian contacts, having discovered so much about this painting already.
Martin, were you thinking of doing that yourself? Let me know if I can help please.
sadly I am not fit enough myself, but I will contact Giorgio and Arialdo
Thank you, Martin.
This work seems to be a copy of ‘Home! after service’ by Frank William Warwick Topham (1838–1924).
Please see the fourth image at this link:
Topham's work was at the Royal Academy (1416) in 1879. I've attached part of an article that describes it.
That's a great find, Marcie. Well done.
This painting is reported to be a sequel to Topham's "Drawing For Military Service, Modern Italy", which was exhibited at the RA in 1878:
https://bit.ly/3Js0HiQ (see page 87, of the Art Journal of 1884)
The painting was engraved:
Well done, Marcie. That's a great find.
The painting was engraved:
It also is reported to be a sequel to Topham's "Drawing for Military Service, Modern Italy", which was exhibited at the RA in 1878:
what splendid discoveries! do we know when Topham visited Italy? He exhibited Pompeii subjects from 1867
The engraving by the long lived Belgian artist, Auguste Danse [1829-1929- tells us that the painting in the Liverpool collection of R T Steele
Alex Kidson who is working on the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitons may know more about Steele
of course Topham will be in the ODNB
Those are amazing finds Kieran and Martin. So much information has come to light!
I've attached the obituary from 1898 of the Liverpool merchant Robert Topham Steele.
I had been searching for R.P. Steele – see page 1325 of this book by Graves. It shows that 'Home! after service' was in the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1887 (50).
While there may not be a discoverable print after this image, the watercolour may have been intended as a reduction for one: two earlier parallel examples were the small reductions that Stephen Poyntz Denning made of both David Wilkie's 'Chelsea Pensioners reading the Waterloo dispatch' and John Burnet's 'Greenwich Hospital and Naval Heroes' painted as a subsequent 'pair' to it. Both were apparently for Burnet to do the engraving (of both).
Even if only coincidentally they are all the same sort of painting - i.e. complex group scenes -and there are no doubt many other examples of 'third-party' reduction for making prints.
Here is the original work by Topham at the 17 February 1993 Sotheby's auction (41). The listing indicates that it was "signed and dated 1879 oil on canvas 50 1/2 by 80 1/2 in. 128.3 by 204.5 cm."
National Archives of Ireland gives Steele's effects in Ireland as £980
Here is Steele’s probate entry on Ancestry. His effects were £69721 15s 7d. I will not be ordering his will.
Sorry Martin: I didn't see you had already spotted the print after Topham, so it is at least possible given the size of the canvas (4ft 2 1/2 in x 6ft 8 1/2 in) that the 'Roffe' was a reduction for that purpose.
From as early as 1834, when he was 19 or 20 years old, Felix Robert Roffe was winning medals for his copies in watercolour of art subjects. In the UK Census of 1851, 1861 and 1871, Roffe is self-described as an artist or painter in watercolours (see the attachments to my post of 04/05/2021). He was also well known for his drawing prowess, as see in the many engravings where his skills were given to in the various known depictions of other artists sculptural works. It would possibly be fair to therefore consider that the artist attribution for this work should be:
Felix Robert Roffe (1814-1887) after Frank William Warwick Topham (1838–1924)
and that the date should be determined as being 1879, as that last numeral seems to be very clearly visible in the signature attachment as originally posted at the beginning of this discussion by Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum on the 30th April 2021. That date would also tie in very clearly with Topham's exhibiting of the original painting at the RA in the Spring of that same year.
Some artists, notably van Dyck, have provided their engravers with intermediary drawings as templates, but it is very common and more routine for the intermediary draughtsman of a reproductive engraving to be someone other than the original artist.
when was military conscription intrduced in Italy after unification?
The 'F. Roffe /delt' is clear enough but the date is a puzzle: despite the apparent ' 9" ' at the end the figure immediately before is '1' not '7' and that before it possibly a malformed '8'. So it might be '1881 9' or some other coding. Hard to believe he would have done 9 of them unless he also did bits of details to help make the after-Topham print of 1882. If/ when it comes out the mount there may be something hidden below to clarify, given the other red marks to left and right.
It is clear from the supplied signature image that there is a purposively place numeral 1 to the left of the signature and date. This might suggest that there were other versions of it painted, if indeed it was rendered as a guide for an engraver. Having said that, it seems more than strange that, as an accomplished supplier of drawings for other engravings, albeit mainly of sculptural subjects, Roffe would not have supplied a highly detailed line drawing rather than a watercolour as a better guide for the engraver's tools to follow. I have searched to see if Auguste Danse had ever collaborated with Roffe but cannot find any such evidence.
Danse was Belgian and worked mainly in Brussels. The engraving does not mention an intermediary draughtsman, who may have been Danse himself (he also worked as a drawing teacher).
The original painting was called ‘Italian Conscripts, Home after Service’ at the Walker Art Gallery (465) in October 1879.
Topham visited Italy multiple times and his oeuvre includes many Italian scenes. He painted in both oil and watercolour (his father was a watercolour painter), and he was elected to the New Society of Watercolours in 1879. Thus, it strikes me as unlikely that, if a watercolour reduction of his oil painting was wanted for engraving, the job would have gone to a different artist.
Here is one of his watercolours https://bit.ly/3XSfM1E
Here is an 1878 precursor painting to ours https://bit.ly/3JuzFrn
See also https://bit.ly/3HQu25s
Was Steele married to an Italian or was his mother Italian? Was he or any of his close family connected to a combatant in the Risorgimento conflct which had ended in 1871? Could the two paintings by Topham have been commissioned?
Latest biography of Alfred Thomas Roffe ,. in Myrone 2023, p. 432
refers to Edwin Roffe ed., The Maidstone Miscellany. London , 1860 and Alfred, Felix and Edwin Roffe. Leeds: our Grandfather's Village, London, 1859
WHERE MIGHT THIS PAINTING 'ON THE CATHEDRAL STEPS' BE SET?
Although the exact reason why F.R. Roffe made this watercolour copy has not become clear and the date numbering (1879?) is also a little ambiguous, the question originally posed has been answered. The artist and original title of the oil painting being copied have also been rediscovered.
The setting is the portico of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, (see Deirdre Hewgill, 30/04/2021, and succeeding posts).
The painting being copied is ‘Home! after service’ by Frank William Warwick Topham, 1838–1924 (see Marcie Doran, 31/01/2023 02:29) shown at the Royal Academy (no. 1416) in 1879 as
sequel/pendant to his 'Drawing For Military Service, Modern Italy", which was exhibited at the RA in 1878 (see Kieran Owens, 31/01/2023 08:32)
The Topham painting was also no. 465 in the 1879 autumn show at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (see Marcie Doran, 01/02/2023 19:09) where the title was ‘Italian Conscripts, Home after Service’. It seems likely to have been bought there, if not previously, by Robert Topham Steele (d. 1898) of that city, who was named as owner when it was engraved for the 1882 'Art Journal' by the Belgian engraver Auguste Danse. It is possible, though only speculation, that Roffe made the smaller copy for that purpose
Steele also lent the oil as no. 50 in the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1887 (Marcie Doran, 31/01/2023 13:08) and it was last noted when sold at Sotheby's, New York, on 17 February 1993 (19th Century European Paintings...lot 41), listed as 'signed and dated 1879, oil on canvas 50 1/2 by 80 1/2 in. / 128.3 by 204.5 cm.' (Marcie Doran, 31/01/2023 15:38)
As already suggested (Kieran Owens, 01/02/2023 00:03) the artist attribution here, as well title correction, should also be updated to 'Felix Robert Roffe (1814-1887) after Frank William Warwick Topham (1838–1924)'
If there is nothing more to add perhaps this can be formally closed?
I have only this link to ‘Home After Service’ (in New Jersey?) to add, thanks. It confirms the dimensions.
Although a side issue, could we clarify whether (as Wiki suggests in a rather confused way) there were two Roffe engraving families or just a connected single one. The first para of the entry at
includes this nonsensical sentence about John and Richard Roffe's origins: 'Their parents, are Thomas Roffe 1725-1794 and Mary Field Alcock 1735 - 1795 Robert Cabbell Roffe 1780–1839 Birth 6 APR 1780 • Bermondsey St Mary Magdalene, England Death 25 MAR 1839 • St Pancras, Middlesex, England ...'
That Robert Cabell Roffe was father of Alfred Thomas (1803–71), Felix Robert (1814-87) and Edwin Roffe (1825–91), and at least two daughters, is clear: also that Felix had a landscape-painter son, Robert John, according to the census entries.
But who was the father of the landscape and subject painter William Thomas Roffe, who showed 14 works at the RA (1845–89), ten at the BI (1845–67) and 12 at the SBA (1849–81)?I suspect it may have been Felix's brother Alfred (who showed one portrait at the RA in 1822 and another at the SBA in 1829).
In 1872/3 William Thomas's SBA submission address was fleetingly 4 Falkland Road (also Felix’s in the 1871 census) and in 1879, at the RA, 18 Grisbach Road, Upper Holloway, which was Felix’s in 1881. Graves also lists three other works he showed from other addresses at the RA in 1871 and 1877 as 'David B. McKay', saying it was a name he took ‘temporarily’.
The address crossovers at least suggest a family link, possibly nephew/uncle.
Perhaps his name was not William Thomas Roffe but William Callis Roffe (bap. 1817–1902). William Callis Roffe was also an engraver and he was another of Robert Cabbell Roffe and Elizabeth’s sons.
Sorry Marcie: my slip - William John (not Thomas) Roffe' - see Graves RA list, though you seem to have discovered another of them.
The landscape painter William John Roffe (1822–1901) was the son of John Roffe, an engraver, and his wife Elizabeth.
Martin mentioned the book at this link (06/02/2023 09:32).
Another son of Robert Cabbell Roffe and Elizabeth Roffe (née Hazley) (1781–Q1 1849) was Albert Henry Roffe (1819–1891) who was a "steel plate engraver".
Thanks again Marcie. The father of the 'John Roffe, engraver' whose son was the painter William John, is still obscure since it looks as if Wiki is wrong in its claim it that such a John and a Richard Roffe were engraver sons of Thomas Roffe (b.1725, Leeds, Kent – d. 1792/4?) and Mary Field Alcock (1735–95).
The 'Leeds' book to which Martin refers, of which the author was primarily that Thomas's grandson Alfred Thomas, says that their father, Robert Cabell Roffe, was in effect an only child since predeceased by elder ones. We have so far seen no evidence that Robert had either a John or Richard as brothers who lived, and Robert himself does not appear to have had children of the name either.
I suspect that the painter William John Roffe was named after a grandfather named William Roffe since his first name is not his father’s name, John.
To perhaps clear up that Wiki entry, note that Robert Cabbell Roffe’s parents were Thomas Roffe and Mary Field Roffe (née Alcock, later Merriman), who had married in 1772. Her father John was a silversmith in London. An Ancestry tree shows that Mary and John Merriman (d. 1771), who had married in 1756, had three sons (Nathaniel, Benjamin and Thomas). The Thomas Merriman on the attached indenture certificate was Robert Cabbell Roffe's half-brother (as stated on page 6 of the book about Robert Cabbell Roffe).
Thanks, but that still doesn't get us to clarity on whether there was just one Roffe engraving family or (as Wiki suggests) two. The fact that William John and Felix Robert Roffe seem to have been -if briefly - at the same addresses in the early 1870s and 1880s suggests a link yet to be demonstrated.
John's dates as a 'noted architectural engraver' (acc. Wiki) are 1769 - 14 December 1850, dying in Upper Holloway, and Richard - thought to be his brother- as 1781 to death on 5 March 1846 in St Pancras.
If John (1769-1850) is the engraver who was father of William John, painter, (1822-1901), then he would have been 52/53 when William John was born and the child's mother, Elizabeth, presumably younger.
John's 1869 d.o.b would make it possible that Thomas (1725 -92/4) was his father by his first marriage to a wife whose name we as yet do not know, and who died before he married Mary (Alcock) Merriman in 1772. But if Richard was b. in 1781 then only Mary could have been his mother. We have no evidence she was and, rather the contrary, since the 'Leeds' book not only makes no mention of any other half- or full brothers of Robert Cabell Rolfe except Thomas Merriman, and says that he was in effect an only child owing to the deaths of previous ones by the second marriage of which he was sole survivor.
The will of Mary Field Roffe (née Alcock, later Merriman) dated 15 October 1792 mentions the following people by name: "my son Robert Cabbell Roffe", "my son Thomas Merriman", "my sister Elizabeth Alcock spinster", "my niece Mary [illeg.]", "Mr. John Thornton of Blackman Street" [one of her executors], and "Mr. Benjamin Howard Merriman of Crutched Friars" [her second executor, who was also one of her sons]. Her will does not mention a son named Richard Roffe.
Will of Mary Field Roffe, Widow of Saint Mary Magdalene Bermondsey, Surrey
Reference: PROB 11/1258/238
Date: 27 March 1795
Thanks Marcie. That at least clarifies the status of RCR's aunt Elizabeth as a sister of his mother, rather than a sister-in-law.
I can't find any family link that might explain the apparent brief same-address tie-ups between Felix Robert Roffe and William John Roffe.
The only thing that suggests WJR's father might be the known engraver John Roffe (1769-1850) is that the 1851 census shows William John (then 29 and still single) as on his own - apart from two older East Anglian visitors - and as head of household at 9, Park Road, Finsbury, in the parish of St Mary Islington, and it was also in Park Road that an 81-year-old John Roffe died in December 1850 and was buried at St Mary's on the 21st. That fits a 1769 birth date and a son being left as 'head' in his late father's house.
I can find no antecedents, or proof of marriage, either of John (1769-1850) or any other John that might be father of WJR, noting that (acc.Wiki) there was also another John, engraver, who was active between 1820 and 1861.
WJR did have a younger full sister sister, Elizabeth Anne, who followed him in being baptised at St George the Martyr, Camden, on 4 November 1825, when their parents (John, engraver, and Elizabeth) were by then in Leigh Street, Barton Crescent. (This sister married George Stephenson Knowles in 1846 but her date of death appears to be undiscovered.)
The John/Elizabeth marriage that produced these two children is itself elusive and an Ancestry family tree also points to an older half-sister, Louisa Roffe, born in February 1810 to John and a previous wife, Anne. Though it confidently says he is the 1769-1850 man it all looks pretty speculative and doesn't help make any connection with the prior paternal line of Felix Roffe and his father, Robert Cabbell Roffe (which is the motive for this rigmarole).
What is now much clearer is that RCR had 6 sons and 5 daughters, of which only an Edwin (1821-23) died young. The youngest girl, Charlotte Edwin (1825-91) was immediately elder sister to the second Edwin (1825-91), the last child; i.e. she was not Edwin's daughter as currently stated in Wiki. All the boys were - more-or less - engravers, though Felix and apparently Edwin rather less than more. I'll post a list before this closes.
Can anyone decipher the last handwritten words of the third line in the RCR indenture which is Marcie's last attachment at 19/03/2023 16:59? It looks like RCR's father Thomas's occupation but defeats me, even blown up directly on Ancestry.
Sorry - a typo: Charlotte Edwin's dates were 1823-1892 (dying in Australia)
Here are two interesting snippets, Pieter, that indicate that the engravers John Roffe and Richard Roffe were the sons of the schoolmaster Joseph Roffe who lived in London.
I’m still searching for those links.
Could those words be “yeoman deceased”?
Well done on both fronts: since the indenture is dated 1 May 1794 its looks as though it confirms (as the 'Leeds' book expressly says) that yeoman Thomas deceased about two years before his son RCR was apprenticed (i.e. 1792 rather than 1794).
Here's some proof of the link beween WJR and the engraver John Roffe (1769-1850)(20/03/2023 18:16), Pieter.
I’ve attached William Plowman and Emma Roffe’s marriage certificate because it shows that Emma’s aunt/WJR's sister Elizabeth Anne Roffe (later Knowles after her 1846 marriage) was one of the witnesses.
Emma was the only surviving child of the engraver Richard Roffe (d. 1846) and she inherited his estate.
"Will of Richard Roffe, Engraver of Saint Pancras, Middlesex
Reference: PROB 11/2033/143
Date: 14 March 1846"
Here’s a document from 1852 that shows a more precise address for WJR. He lived at "9, West Terrace, Park Road, Upper Holloway”.
For completeness, I’ve attached a couple of notices about the schoolmaster Joseph Roffe’s schools in Chelmsford as well as a land tax document that shows him associated with the Dorset Court Charity School in London.
I'm still hoping to find a link between FRR and WJR.
Thanks Marcie. WJR's RA exhibiting address 1851-53 is also '9, West Terrace, Park Road' and in the 1851 census for Finsbury he is sole occupant/ head of household at '9 Park Road', with a 'cashier' and his wife (both East Anglian-born) as visitors.
The John Roffe who died in December 1850, aged 81, in 'Park Road' - also I think Finsbury (I don't have home access to Ancestry to check these) was buried in -relatively close - St Mary, Islington, on the 21st.
The only Park Road that shows up on a modern London map search is in Crouch End, N8, which is surely too far north to be 'Upper Holloway'. I suspect that the 'Park Road' of 1850 is what is now Finsbury Park Road.
Here’s that burial record for John Roffe (d. 1850). I’ve also attached the notice of his death from the newspaper.
Here’s a great website (The Underground Map) that shows Park Road near the city prison when I put “Holloway Road” in the search engine.
Well done: that nails him as the well-known architectural engraver (1769-1850) and beyond reasonable doubt middle-aged father to WJR and Elizabeth Anne, presumably by a slightly younger wife (Elizabeth).
Again subject to double-check, both were baptised at St George the Martyr in Queen's Square, Holburn): WJR on 10 April 1822 and Elizabeth Anne on 4 November 1825. The address/ place of birth in 1822 is given as 'Lancaster Street' and as 'Leigh Street, Burton Crescent' in 1825. The latter is close by but there isn't (at least today) a Lancaster Street in the Holburn / lower Camden area, only in Southwark: i.e. close to St George the Martyr there.
This link that suggests the other engraving John, active 1820-61, might have been an older half-brother of WJR and Elizabeth but I have found no evidence for that. A John Roffe, batchelor, and Elizabeth Coates, spinster, who married at St Mary-le-Bone on 26 August 1818, are the closest-dated and name-matched London couple who might have produced the two children we have, but if so that rules out a prior marriage for John 'senior'.
Sorry: the link mentioned above
Park Road is now Parkhurst Road. The 1851 road numbering, and location of the various terraces of houses on it (including West), is all very confusing, but Roffe's home was evidently close to Warlter's Road (name largely unchanged today). The City Prison was at the time under construction - it later became HMP Holloway, the famous women's prison.
Thanks Osmund, and all. Felix and the other Roffes: draft summaries attached
Those are impressive summaries, Pieter. I would add the information about FRR's mother to the summary for him.
FRR married Mary Coghlan (abt. 1816 – 1906) in 1846. She was the artist daughter of John Coghlan (Coglan, Caglan, Caghlan), an artist, and his wife Sarah.
FRR's family also included a daughter named Lilian Catherine (birth reg. 1862, 1st qtr). Her name is on the second page of the 1881 Census entry for that family.
Thanks Marcie: I'll tidy FRR up and send to Marion for 'profile' use.
A couple of street clarifications, or partly so. The 'Clarendon Street' and 'Charles Street' that were FRR's addresses in 1841 and 1851 no longer exist and were both in Somers Town (Euston) west of Ossulston Street. The former is today the upper part of modern Werrington Street, above Polygon Road. The lower part of Werrington Street ends at Phoenix Road, and with Polygon Road and Chalton Street to the east define former 'Clarendon Square' which is mentioned in FRR's probate as 'near' a sometime address of his at '57 Barclay Street'. This also no longer exists (and I've not found it on a map).
Charles Street is also a bit problematic, though certainly also in Somers Town/Euston. A 'Charles St' was a western continuation of Drummond Street, carrying it across the Hampstead Road.
However the following appears in a Wiki transcription
of street renamings being proposed in 1938:
'Charles Street, Somers Town NW1 - to be incorporated with the south side of Clarendon Square & Phoenix Street under the name of Phoenix Road' . This is well east of Hampstead Road and I've not yet found it marked on a map.
Martin asked if Steele might have commissioned Topham's original painting (06/02/2023 04:50). An article in ‘The Art Journal’ of 1880 about the Walker Art Gallery exhibition of 1880 and sales prices achieved at the 1879 Exhibition (01/02/2023 19:09) shows that the painting was sold in 1879 for £840.
That's presumably the purchase by Robert Topham Steele of L'pool (d. 1898).
The puzzling 'Lancaster Street' (see 22/03/2023 15:11) given as baptismal address of W. J. Roffe resolves as modern Thanet Street, Somers Town/ St Pancras: 'Up to 1826 it was called Lancaster Street, and it is so marked on Britton's map of 1834.'
See para CXVIII here and Fig 25 at the top: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol24/pt4/pp83-93
This is comment no. 99 on the present picture and the Roffe family issues spinning out from it. Time to stop I suggest.
Pieter, I've marked the Charles and Barclay Streets you're after in red on the attached map (detail from OS 25 inch survyd 1870 pub 1876 - from Nat Liby Scotland).
Thanks Osmund. I hadn't thought to look there. Its a fine map which would have sorted things out sooner if I had. I've never seen 'The Polygon' or Clarendon Square before and don't think we've previously had a case with so many London address puzzles owing to urban developmental change and renamings in a relatively small area. Bentley had it wrong in his assertion that
The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.
In case like this they are inseparable.
Re: the last attachment from Kieran Owens at 04/05/2021 01:49, reporting the Dept of Science and Art purchase of 56 drawings by F. Roffe in 1892, and presumed for the V&A.
No such drawings are listed in current V&A online cataloguing. All the V&A has is prints by various members of the family.
I suggest this now closes based on my summary at 17/03/2023 11:52 above
Everything subsequent to that was discussion to clarify biographical information about Felix Robert Roffe, the artist of this copy after F.W. Topham, and other contemporary Roffes to whom he was more or less related.
His profile and one of William John Roffe are in the 'Artist biographies' listing, and Art UK has already updated all the picture data here.