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The Slightly Less Elusive Ortellis of London & Buckingham etc

The Slightly Less Elusive Ortellis of London, Buckingham, Marlborough and various and other places, as well as their barometers, 1798-circa 1834

Where did the Ortellis originally come from?

During the 1840s, an Ortelli peddling barometers in Scotland would tell a chance aquaintance that he came from Rivolta near Como, and that put me onto a false trail for a while.  The only Rivolta is Rivolta di Adda, which is in Lombardy, in the province of Cremona. However, I am sure that the traveller misheard or incorrectly remembered what he had been told. The Ortellis whom I've traced back to their Italian roots are all from Rovenna, overlooking the western bank of the western leg of Lake Como.  It should be noted that Rovenna produced  at least three more fine quality barometer-making families: Della Torre, Barelli and Gatty, the latter being an anglicisation of Gatti. Throughout the 19th century there are marital links between all four families.

Given the English view of the poverty of people of Lake Como, it is worth saying that an Italian writer of the period didn't seem to find such grinding poverty in Rovenna:
Sulle falde di questa montagna ampia si veggon le terre di Piazza e Rovenna patria del celebre pittore Angiol Michele Colonna. Vi si raccoglie frumento do grani si belli e grossi, che volontieri cuocesi in minestra alla foggia del farre e dell’orzo. A pochi passi da Rovenna avvi una caverna detta il Pertugio della Volpe, e malgrado il difficile ingresso vi si mise dentro in dottor physico Onorato Solari. Trovolla estendersi per 900 piedi parigini, e n’estrasse lunghi pezzi d’albastro assai bello.  [On the sides of that large mountain you come to the Piazza and Rovenna, birthplace of the famous painter Angiol Michele Colonna. There the people gather a harvest of grains that are so beautiful and fat that they cry out to be cooked in soups... A short distance from Rovenna is the cave known as the Pertugio della extends for 900 Parisian feet and they extract long pieces of rather beautiful alabaster.]
Viaggio del Lago di Como di Poliante Lariano;  Giovanni Battista Giovio, published 1817, three years after the author's death.

View from Rovenna over Como
Author's collection

When did they first leave Como and reach Britain?

The answer to this is not simple. The short answer is that the first record of their presence in Britain dates to 1798, thus coinciding with that critical period of late 18th century war, persecution and poverty. I don't know which of these prompted the first of the Ortellis to make the decision to leave. I think, too, that they did not just decide to go to England. There is a in existence a barometer signed Ortally, Paris, datable to the period before the French Revolution, and that suggests they had a staging post, so to speak. Given that the della Torres definitely worked in Paris in the late 18th century, and that the two families came from Rovenna, this isn't too great a surprise.

The London Records

The records of the capital are well-preserved and wide-ranging, and it is the The London Land Tax Records that prove that the first Ortelli was in London before (or right at the start of) 1798. This set of records lists, street by street, who owned the properties and the names of any tenants. It even give the rents paid by those tenants, on which the owner was assessed for tax. 

Tthere is nothing to preclude the possibility that the Ortellis had made a prior visit as pedlars or spent time peddling before settling down. They might well have been working for or with the Della Torres at their London premises.
 Anthony della Torre, optician, worked at 4 Leigh Street, Red Lion Square, Holborn, from 1805-1811  with further directory references to an Anthony della Torre at the same address in the 1820s. Opticians, with their skill in working with glass, were just the sort of craftsmen to be making barometer and thermometer tubes etc.
The parish  baptisms, marriages and death records from the period before the introduction of civil registrations for birth, marriage and death in 1837 are also very good for London. We are lucky to have parish records of the Italians because they were Catholics, and while Catholics were no longer subject to  official persecution that used to include imprisonment and death by various unpleasant methods, they still faced state discrimination. They had no public places of worship in which to conduct the sacraments, but in London they could hear Mass at the Sardinian Embassy, close to Holborn, which counted as sovereign foreign soil.  Conveniently for the historian they seemed to have made good use of the Church of England for baptisms, marriages and burials and so can often be found in the parish registers. George Borrow's Norwich and Corunna acquaintance, Luigi Pozzi, allegedly observed wistfully to the author :

 I have travelled all over England and never met with ill usage, except once down in the north amongst the Papists, upon my telling them to leave all their mummeries and go to the parish church as I did, and as all my countrymen in England did; for know one thing, Signor Giorgio, not one of us who have lived in England, whether Piedmontese or men of Como, but wished well to the Protestant religion, if he had not actually become a member of it.

You  have to be careful in taking this at face value: Borrow was, after all, employed by the Bible Society and may have improved upon Pozzi's words. But the evidence seems to be there in the parish records. However,  it should also be remembered that, at this period,before civil registration was introduced in 1837, couples marrying in England were required to  have a Church of England ceremony for their  marriage to be legal. When it came to death, who else if not the C of E would see them buried when they died? When Catholic places of worship became widespread, the Italians certainly used them, but here we probably get a split between those who married into English families and who continued with the C of E, and those who married Italian girls and who were faithful to Catholicism. The wealthier Ortellis married Italian women and remained practising Catholics.

What names do we have for these early Ortellis?

Some of the names are known from records, others through the signatures (not literally signatures, just engraved names) on barometers
 P Ortelli ought to be Peter (1), 
N Ortelli  is so far unidentified but there are so few Italian Christian names for men that begin with N, and it's a fair guess that is stands for Niccolo or Nicola (that's a man's name in Italy). There was a Nicola Ortelli in Rovenna but I know nothing of his working life or whether he ever left Rovenna.
D. Ortelli, at this period, is probably Domenico, because, again, it is a very unusual initial for an Italian man. If so, I would wager a small amount of money that  he is the father of, Antonio, one of the two most fully documented Ortellis to work in England. There is another candidate: Domenico Ortelli, born on 10 Octover 1787. One of his godparents was Nicola Ortalli. I don't think I will ever know his identity.
Giuseppe Ortelli is documented at Cross Street as Joseph Ortelli.
Francis is known only from his 1817 burial record in the register of  St Andrew Holborn
Charles was buried at St Andrew Holborn in 1814; he too exists only as a burial record.
F. Orteli. On 30 January 2008 Gorringes auctioned a wheel barometer signed F Ortelli. It has four glasses and a scroll pediment but, certainly in the auction house image, it looks heavy and lacks the lines of a barometer made before 1817, so i would rule out Francis. It might
have a link to a Felix who died in Devon in 1836.
J. Ortelli. Possibly Joseph.

    You’ll have noted that Italian names were often anglicised, if not by their bearers then by public officials and, of course, engravers. Giovanni Maria Ronchetti quickly became John Merry Ronchetti/Ronketti/Ronkite; the Ortellis can be found as Ortali, Ottelli, Ottelle, Ortalli,Orselli, Ortelle or Ortelly. Confusingly, there is a family named Ortell, but they seem to  be fully paid-up English who just happened to live in the parish of St Andrew Holborn. Pizzala is sometimes rendered phonetically as Pitsalla, Grego can be Gragg or Grago; Gabalio has turned up as Gabial and Gabalis. Christian names, too, were anglicised in records: Pietro/Peter; Giuseppe/Joseph; Domenico/Dominic, Jacopo/James; Giovanni/John.  

     The Post Office Directory of 1808 lists "Ortelli, Joseph & Co, Merchants, 20 Cross Street, Hatton Garden", an address which appears on a few Ortelli barometers. Tracking down Joseph - Giuseppe - has been a fruitless task so far.  Significantly, however, in 1808 the address was shared with "Gabalio P. Barometer maker, Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation". The 1809 Kent’s Directory lists Ortelli & Co at 20 Cross Street, Hatton Garden, as carvers and gilders. So presumably Gabalio was paying the rent and sub-letting to the Ortellis. And who were the " & Co" in "Ortelli & Co"

Going back to the London Land Tax Registers, Peter Gabalio is listed in Cross street from 1805-1810.    However, there are hardly any recorded examples of extant Gabalio barometers but there are lots of  Ortellis, and not just Ortellis of Macclesfield. Yet remember that Gabalio is listed as a barometer maker for Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation. That suggests he was making on a reasonable scale. The Webster Signature Database, quoting Goodison, also ascribes wheel barometers to Gabalio and gives an additional address of 3 Long Lane. So where are all the Gabalio instruments?  He must have made his instruments for others to sell, and maybe the Ortellis were good customers.

Marine barometer by Gabalio
Courtesy of Oscar Fontijn, Fontijn Antiek.

In the 1814 Post Office Directory, Joseph Ortelli is still at 20 Cross Street but there is no mention of Gabalio.  However, F Pastorelli is at 4 Cross Street as a barometer maker, Ronketti is at 6 Peter Street, Bloomsbury, and there is an entry for T Renketh, junior, as a 'barometer etc' maker at 3 High Street Bloomsbury. This could well be another bastardisation of Ronchetti. Looking Glass makers with Italian names comprise:  A Salteri, P & P Gally, P Barnarda, J Pizzala; P Barnaschina at 4 Leather lane was recorded as a picture frame manufactory, with Tagliabue and Torre listed as opticians.

Back to the Ortellis

The link between all these early Ortellis undoubtedly lies somewhere in the parish records of Rovenna, though, to tell the truth, we haven't found them so far.
 The London business ended in 1825, and this councided with the death of Peter Ortelli, born circa 1780 and buried on 2 Jan 1825.

PETER ORTELLI (1)  Born c1780- Buried 2 Jan 1825

I estimated Peter's date of birth from his age as given in the burial register at St Andrew Holborn in London, but there is a good chance he may have been born in 1786, and if so, he was the brother of Antonio whom we will meet soon. 
I have no information re the date of Peter Ortelli's arrival, but by 1811 he had a substantial shop in Buckingham where in that same year he married a local girl from a prosperous family. In 1813 he sold off his stock and furniture to move to an unspecified 'distant county'.

There follows an eleven year gap in the Peter Ortelli story, but he and his wife must have gone to live in London at some stage because according to the burial register of St Andrew Holborn, he was living at Brooks Market, Holborn, when he died at the very end of 1824 or very early in 1825. His wife outlived him by almost twenty years, dying in London after being made bankrupt.

Peter Ortelli was far from being the only immigrant Italian to put down roots and marry in Britain at this period, nor the only Ortelli to do so. The Joseph Ortelli who was described as a Merchant in the Post Office and the Kent’s directories of 1808 and 1809 respectively may or may not be the Joseph whose son, also named Joseph, was baptised in Hay, Breckonshire [Hay-on-Wye] on 15 July 1814. He is described in the parish burial register as a pedlar.Kembury Antique Clocks Ltd sold a lovely Ortelli Sheraton with rope stringing, dated by them to about 1810, and signed Jos. Ortelli & Co of Bath [See Barometer Image No. 30]. It also has the word Fecit. Joseph Ortelli ought therefore, have made the instrument, but probably not in Bath – that was where he sold it. The odds are that it was made in London.


ANTHONY ORTELLI  (1) 1790-1873 
Given Peter Ortelli's connection with Buckingham, it's not surprising to find a batch of barometer with a Buckingham signature, but it isn't his name on them. It's that of Anthony Ortelli.

BUCK1: A Sheraton type, signed A Ortelli Buckingham was sold by Musgrave Bickford Antiques, Devon.

BUCK2: A stick barometer circa 1800, also signed A Ortelli, Buckingham, was auctioned by Waddingtons, Toronto, in December 2010, from the collection of Katrina Wilson, Toronto 39ins/99.1cms long

A 6" wheel barometer in mahogany with swan neck pediment, dating from late 1820s-early 1830s. Private collection, Cheshire. Barometers with very small dials are considered highly desirable

BUCK3: Six inch dial Buckinham Ortelli
Courtesy of Andrew Foott

BUCK4: An 1820 Sheraton, signed A Ortelli Buckingham, alcohol thermometer, shell and flower inlay, boxwood strung. Auctioned by Bigwood, 24 September 2010, Lot 310. Image requested

BUCK5: A. Ortelli with centre hygrometer
Courtesy of Andrew Foott


BUCK5: A 10 inch wheel barometer with, most unusually, a centrally mounted hygrometer. When fitted to an instrument, the hygrometer was almost always at the top, above the thermometer case. Private collection, Cheshire.

BUCK6: Sheraton Mahogany Barometer with brass finial, 12" long thermometer box, 8" dial, inscribed A Ortelli, Buckingham, and Warranted. with flower and shell inlays, Ebony and satinwood stringing. 39" (99cm) high That came from an online dealer in Manningtree, but they appear to be no longer in business.
BUCK7:  mahogany wheel barometer with hygrometer, thermometer, main dial and spirit level. Swan neck pediment with brass finial, Line inlay and delighful foliate engraving to the centre of the main dial, and with the little leaf motif at the top of the thermometer plate. The spirit level is signed A Ortelli, Buckingham 1817. A very elegant instrument.  Reference:

BUCK7: A Ortelli, Buckingham, 4-dial, 1817
BUCK7: Spirit level showing the 1817 date
BUCK8: Ortelli & Co Buckingham
Courtesy of Brentwood Auctions

BUCK8:   This  very plain four-dial mahogany barometer signed Ortelli & Co, Buckingham, with broken pediment and shell inlay,was auctioned by Brentwood Antique Auctions in 2011, Lot 419.  Small circular motif to dial centre, no decoration to other plates. Name and town must be on the level plate which is obscured by some unspecified stuff.

BUCK9:  No image for this now available, but described in auction catalogue as 'Late George III'. Evdiently a Sheraton, 100 cms long, and signedA Ortelli Buckingham. Sold 7 July 2003, Bath, Lot 137 by Bonhams. provenance given as The Remaining Contents of Ashley Grange.

BUCK10: No image available now, but a wheel barometer inlaid with a shell motif and signed Pizzi Ortelli Buckingham. Sold at Par by Bonhams, lot 81, 2 Dec 2004. This description of what could well be a  Sheraton suggests that the partnership existed at least as early as about 1825.

Antonio Ortelli was born in 1790, in Rovenna and came to Buckingham between late  1814 and 1817 with his wife and daughter. It could not have been earlier - unless he had made brief visits before 1814, and it has to be by 1817 because of the existence of the 1817 barometer, listed above. Other references, not least the birth of three further daughters, also place Antonio in the town during the next few years. Like Peter (1) before him (and I suspect they were brothers) he was a jeweller, but his shop sold many other things, not least barometers, and he may have had some hand in making ot assembling them. It is interesting that, if they were so closely related, that Peter did not stay in Buckingham and hand over a going concern to Antonio. Instead, as we know, Peter sold up and Antonio must have started from scratch.
An auction catalogue recorded the existence of a barometer (possibly of Sheraton style)  signed, "Pizzi Hetti, Buckingham". That should undoubtedly read "Pizzi & Cetti" Buckingham.  In the mid 1830s there was a Paul Cetti in partnership with an Ortelli and a Bianchi in Reading, proof, if it were needed, of the web of links, often transient, between these Italian immigrants. That Reading Ortelli was Defendente, soon to become Antonio's son-in-law and business partner.

A major blow struck during the brief period  between the birth of his last daughter and the early Spring of 1828,  with the sudden death of  his wife. He returned to Italy and there remarried, to Angela Primavesi.  Four years later, Angela's brother, Fedele,  married Antonio's sister, Marta Maria. They, too, would come to England, and probably Antonio and his new wife, plus the son born to them in 1830 - Giovanni - and Antionio's daughters from his first marriage travelled with them.
Antonio's was in partnership with Joseph Pizzi in Buckingham from 1828-1834.
I have a four year gap in his life, after which he resurfaces not far away, in Oxford. There is a hint that he was ill round this time.

Clocks by Ortelli of Buckingham
In 2009 Colwyn Bay auctioneers Rogers Jones sold a a Regency mahogany cased bracket clock with pineappple finial, signed  Anthony Ortelli, Buckingham. It fetched £1200, ex commission, and was the most expensive item in a £12,000 collection of antiques etc belonging to the late Betty Roberts of Criccieth who died on May 31, 2009 in Criccieth aged 92 years. She was the widow of Thomas Owen Roberts, and the Roberts were seafarers.For how long they had owned the clock is unknown, but it was bought by a telephone bidder from Buckingham, so maybe it has returned home.

Lot 356: A Silver Hunter Pocket Watch with fusee movement by Pizzi & Ortelli, Buckingham (No.4512), London 1828. That was the catalogue description by Richards auctioneers of Axbridge 2Dec 2009, and is also the proof of the partnership existing in or before 1828. It sounds as if Ortelli and Pizzi actually did make the fusee movement. A fusee movement has a brass cone on which you wind a fine chain using the key. Very easy to recognise, especially if you have a clock with glass panels that lets you see the movement.

 A 19th Century silver cased, engine turned, pocket watch with key PIZZI D'ORTELLI BIRMINGHAM  [Assume that should read Pizzi & Ortelli]. Lot 467 Richardsons, Bourne 4/6/2009.

Early nineteenth century eight day longcase clock, by Ortelli of Buckingham, with painted arch dial with lunar phase decorated with moon and galleon at sea, the spandrels painted depicting allegories of the four Continents, the circular dial with subsidiary seconds, calendar aperture and Roman numerals, in an inlaid mahogany case with swan-neck pediment, turned columns with brass Corinthian capitals and inlaid shell paterae, on bracket feet, 231cm high. The condition report included a note that Plate behind dial is signed Wilkes & Son. The latter made dials from 1820-1831. The  clock is very handsome. Wish I had a big enough house for a longcase clock.

 A.Ortelli, Buckingham - circa '1870' A 'London' style flame mahogany cased 8 day pointed arched dial (12 x 16.5) longcase clock, showing seconds and striking on a bell. the clock stands 82 high having a full length (33) arched top trunk door with peripheral moulding. the breakarch hood with reeded columns and fretwork and rectangular fretted side windows. Dickins,  Lot 708, sold  8/10/2011. I think that 1870 date is a typo, given the image of the clock.

 A. Ortelli Buckingham, an early 19th century mahogany longcase clock. The hood having a fretted pediment with brass capped pilasters, the trunk with arched waist door, on box plinth with later bracket feet, 8-day four pillar mechanism with rack bell strike, faced by an arched white painted dial with subsidiary seconds, 2.12m high. Auctioned by Bigwood: Lot 323, 24 Nov 2011


Other Ortelli Barometers of this period

 Apart from the Macclesfield and Buckingham groups, there are Ortelli barometers engraved with the names of other towns or, indeed, no town at all. It is more than likely that all were made in London.


LON1: Cross-banded Ortelli & Co London
By courtesy of Toovey's Auctioneers

LON1. Veneered in flame mahogany (the repro does not do it justice),  cross-banded in rosewood  and with ebony and boxwood stringing, with a scroll pediment, this could be the highest quality barometer to carry the Ortelli name. The engraving of flowers, leaves and birds  on the main dial is splendid. The barometer is signed on the spirit level Ortelli & Co, 20 Cross Street Hatton Garden, London, and should date from or before 1817 as that seems to be the last year in which the Ortellis rented the Cross Street premises, but it could well be a few years later.  It measures 114cms (almost 45 ins), which makes it a large instrument. In the image, it looks almost identical to a barometer by Charles Somalvico which also features a bird motif. That particular barometer features in Banfield's 'Barometers - Wheel or Banjo" on page 70 and 71. There is every chance they used the same engraver. The only concern is that the engraving of "Ortelli & Co" and "London" on the level plate is  not as good as the decoration of main dial, though "20 Cross Street" is engraved in script. Unfortunately, the  image in the book is not large enough to reveal the engraving on the spirit level of the Somalvico instrument. Banfield estimates that barometer at circa 1815, which would certainly support a similar date for the Ortelli.

Lon12 Ortelli, London, Sheraton
Courtesy of Nimbus Antiques
Lon2 Ortelli, Sheraton
Courtesy of Nimbus Antiques

LON2: A lovely Mahogany Sheraton barometer, signed Ortelli & Co, London. Boxwood stringing, crisp floral and shell inlays and broken pediment with brass finial to top. Currently for sale at Nimbus Antiques

LON3: Ortelli & Co London
By Courtesy of Tennants Auctioneers

LON3:  Mahogany Sheraton barometer signed Ortelli & Co, London, circa 1825.  Broken pediment, shell and flower paterae, with stringing and line inlay to the edges of the case, alcohol thermometer tube, 8-inch dial, 98cm high. Auctioned by Tennants, 19 November 2009

LON4 : Ortalli & Co, London, 38" Sheraton,  with beautiful marquetry stringing, floral and foliate engraving to main dial,  and a pretty leaf and flower  engraving 'sprouting ' from the top of the thermometer.  Acorn finial. sold by Horologica, Billericay. Image doesn't do justice to the stringing.

LON4: detail of dial
Alas the stringing detail doesn't show up! Courtesy of Horologica
LON4: Ortalli & Co London
courtesy of Horologica

LON5: Mahogany wheel barometer with inlaid string banding and shell panels by Ortelli and Co, Hatton Garden, London. It lacks the star or flower inlays of the Sheraton.  Looking at the image, it is probably among the least impressive of the Ortelli barometers, but needs  restoration. Sold 2012 by Wotton auctions.

LON6. Wheel barometer with thermometer, hygrometer, and convex mirror, signed on the level dial P.Ortelli, London . No image available, but the text claims it is George III. Auctioned by Lawrences of Bletchingly in 2001

    LON7: A George III boxwood-strung mahogany stick barometer, the silvered Vernier scale signed Ortelli & Co. London with alcohol thermometer, the case with finial to the architectural pediment and moulded cistern cover - 39½ (100cm.) high. No image, but sold by Christies, Sale 6478, lot 82.

LON8: A German-based vendor sold a wheel barometer signed Ortelly & Co London. No useful description is given, other than that it was decorative, and no image was available, but with measurement of 98cm x 26cms it has the proportions of a typical Sheraton.

LON9 Sheraton barometer  by Ortelli & Co. London. with conch shell and flower inlays, 97 cms high. Was in the hands of Lancaster Antiques in New Zealand but they may have ceased trading as the site is now owned by Cordy’s auctions.
LON10: Two glass mahogany wheel barometer with broken pediment, signed Ortelli, London.  Pretty little floral motif to dial. Just acquired by its owner, needing restoration.  Private collection, Cheshire.

LON10: 2-glass Ortelli & Co London
Courtesy of Andrew Foott
LON11: Round top, Ortelly & Co 19 Leather Lane
Courtesy of Pook & Pook auctions, Downington PA

LON11. In many ways the most  most unusual of all the instruments so far: a mahogany round top with shell and flower inlay and mercury thermometer, signed Ortelly & Co, 49 Leather Lane, Holborn. This is the first record of an Ortelli barometer bearing this address.  The engraving of 'Change' in upper case Roman characters, in a gentle convex arc that parallels the copperplate script of the name and address beneath it is also unexpected but not unique. Graded in tenths. Somewhat distressed, with the dial re-screwed off centre. Auctioned by Pook & Pook Philadelphia, 14 Dec 2012, Lot 150. Comments on the likely date gratefully received! 1815?

LON12: Ortelli & Co. London, mahogany Sheraton.  Almost identical to LON10 with its  free floral and foliage engraving , but it has the shell and flower inlay.  Probably dates to around 1820 and, like 21A and others, was made for the cheaper end of the market.  Sold by Stroud Auction Rooms  in  January  2012,  lot 204

LON12: Basic Sheraton, Ortelli & Co London
Courtesy of Stroud Auctions

LON13: A boxwood-strung mahogany Sheraton with flower and shell inlay and alcohol thermometer, 40 inches high. Just above the centre of the dial is a  feathery little  motif of a bud and three leaves. The inlays are simple but the whole effect is rather sweet. Auctioned by Mitchells Antiques and Fine Art, 16 June 2011, Lot 867. Image requested

LON14: Sheraton signed Ortelli & Co, London, broken pediment over inlaid rosette, arched thermometer box and  8-inch signed silvered dial 96.5cm (39in) long. Auctioned Bonhams, London. Lot 263, 3 March 2008

LON14: Dial
Courtesy of Bonhams Auctioneers
LON14: pediment and flower inlay
Not exactly symmetrical!

LON15: This is probably a four-dial with broken pediment, but the only image of it is a partial view on Invaluable, and Cameo Auctions, who sold it in 2007,  went bankrupt in 2011. It is known to have a 10-inch dial and to be signed by J Ortelli London. When sold it was missing its hygrometer. The image did not show the bottom but I presume it had a spirit level. The shoulder puts it post 1820 and the neck is not quite as flowing as, say, No 4  It looks to have been  a handsome piece.

LON16: A stick barometer signed John Ortelly & Co London. Boxwood and ebony chequered line inlay to the mahogany case, broken pediment . Sold in 2004 by Gardiner Houlgate Auctioneers, Lot 435. Datable to around 1810-1815. Unfortunately, the auction house no longer as an image of it, This is so far the only John Ortelly or Ortelli barometer to turn up. No information about him, either,

LON17: Ortelli & Co London, Sheraton c. 1820
Courtesy of Durrants Auctioneers

LON17  Sheraton, probably from around 1820, with central dial engraving rather like a ripsaw blade of a circular saw, Alchohol thermometer, line inlay, possibly ebony strung. Signed Ortelli & Co London. Sold March 2013, Lot 14, by Durrant's Auctioneers.

Courtesy of Gorringes

LON18: A really handsome four-dial  wheel barometer, measuring 3ft 6inches, probably dating to around 1820, mahogany veneer, stringing, signed Ortelli & Co London

Courtesy of Cheffins Fine Art
Lon9, stick signed Ortelli & Co fecit London
Courtesy of Cheffins Fine Art auctioneers
Lon19, stick signed Ortelli & Co fecit London
Courtesy of Cheffins Fine Art auctioneers

LON19: Stick barometers with a London signature are rare among the Ortelli instruments. This typical stick barometer from around 1810-15 is signed Ortelli & Co London, and carries the further information 'fecit', which is nice to see. Replacement tube, turned cistern cover, herringbone pattern veneer down the trunk. 100.5 cms. Plenty of dust....

LON20: Mahogany Sheraton sold on Ebay in September 2013. Very typical and signed J. Ortelli London in cursive script. Presumably Joseph.   Small, fairly plain, central engraving. Leaf motif engraved on the thermometer register plate, to 'sprout' from the tube. Thin engraved wavy line outlines the  thermometer bed. As i was pipped at the post for this, I am feeling very sore. Images requested from seller. Maybe buyer will get in touch.

Courtesy Kembury Antique Clocks and Barometers
Courtesy Kembury Antique Clocks and Barometers

LON21: Typical Sheraton of the 1815-1820 period signed Ortelli & Co, in upper case,  over the engraved floral motif above the spindle.  London is engraved in cursive script on the lower half of the dial.  Another Ortelli with a lovely little sprig motif -  similar to the designs on  LON13 and LON10.  The case edge is strung witth both boxwood and ebony. Height 39 1/2ins. (100cms.). Currently for sale at Kembury Clocks.

LON 22

No. 22 Ortelli of London Sheraton
courtesy of Mallams Auctions, Cheltenham

Signed Ortelli, London, this simple Sheraton is unremarkable and in need of restoration. The silvering has entirely gone from the thermometer plate and main dial.  The decoration on the dial is minimal and confined to the very centre. Shell and flower inlays are standard. Auctioned 5 June by Mallams, Cheltenham.


BATH1: Mahogany stick barometer, signed Ortelli of Bath., with vernier, exposed mercury tube, chevron veneer, elegantly inlaid cistern cover, alcohol thermometer and broken pediment. Auctioned by Rago Arts 333 North Main Street Lambertville NJ 08530 in April 2003

BATH2: Jos. Ortelli & Co.
Courtesy of Kembury Clocks
BATH2: Detail of shell inlay and stringing
Courtesy of Kembury Antique Clocks

BATH2:  Sheraton barometer from about 1810, Shell and flower inlays to the mahogany case. which is edged with really attractive marquetry stringing in the 'rope' form.  A convex cast bezel, and  engraved silvered dial signed ' Jos. Ortelli & Co. Fecit' of Bath. Circa 1810. Sold by Kembery Antique Clocks, Bristol.

BATH3: A very typical mahogany stick barometer, 96cms, with line inlay and veneer laid in chevron pattern,  signed D Ortelli, Bath. Signature engraved in nice, flowing script. Auctioned in September 2013 by Auktionshaus Plückbaum GmbH of Bonn, Germany.

Bath 3
D Ortelli, stick barometer


Courtesy of Amersham Auctions

Amersham Auctions sold this attractive Sheraton in 2013. Signed D. Ortelli, Bristol, mahogany veneer, typical flower inlays, 33ins high


Carlisle Barometers

CARL1 Mahogany Veneer Inlaid Stick Barometer, signed N. Ortelly & Co. Carlisle. Auctioned by Skinners, Boston. Mass. Sale 2365 Lot 229.


A typical mahogany Sheraton, 101 cms tall, signed Ortelli & Co Carlisle. The thermometer plate isn't engraved beyond the expected indications, but the main dail has one of those sweet little sprig motifs seen on a group of Ortelli barometers. Auctioned 29 Mar 2014 by Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh


MARL1. D Ortelli Marlborough
Courtesy Andrew

    MARL1: Another D. Ortelli, this time a stick barometer, and with ‘Marlborough, Warranted’, also engraved on the register plate. Glazed hinged door, simple turned cistern cover, vernier. Mahogany case edged with stringing and decorated with line inlay, exposed tube, veneers laid in chevron pattern. No brass finial, unless it is missing. Datable to 1805-1815.  , auctioned by Andrew Smith 08 June 2010, lot 0719


N?A?Ortelli Preston
Courtesy of Gildings Auction House
N?A?Ortelli Preston
Courtesy of Gildings Auction House
N?A?Ortelli Preston
Courtesy of Gildings Auction House

One of the really fine Ortellis was sold on18 February 2014 by Gildings Auctions, Market Harborough. The swan-pediment case is in flame mahogany, and very beautifully outlined - the inlay doesn't show up well in the images.. It's a four glass dating from around the 1820s, but, most unusually, the hygrometer is fitted below rather than above the thermometer. Central dial engraving is small but very detailed, while the register plate of the thermometer has  the most delicate floral engraving cradling the bulb and also sprouting above the top of the thermeter tube. The catalogue lists it as A Ortelly, Preston, but looking at the \ stroke  of the initial makes me think that the initial should perhaps be N. Hard to tell because the rest of the initial is too faint to make out and the image was taken at a slight angle. We will wait for this instrument to turn up on a dealer's website.

Birmingham Barometers

BIR1: George III stick barometer by Ortelli, Birmingham, with silvered register plate, hygrometer and thermometer. Lot 48, sold 2006 by W & H Peacock.

BIR2 signed A Ortelli, Birmingham
Photo courtesy of James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, Maine

BIR2: Sheraton mahogany banjo barometer auctioned in Fairfield, Maine, USA,  by James D Julia in 2007 (Ref Samoset07]. The dial is signed A. Ortelli & Co Birmingham, and the case measures 38.5ins. The barometer came from a mansion on Long Island, New York.

Exeter Barometers

EXE1: Stick barometer,broken pediment, thumb-nail edge mouldings to the trunk and turned cistern cover, hinged door to the silvered register plate with sliding vernier scale and alcohol thermometer. Signed Maggi & Ortelli/EXETER/Warranted, visible mercury tube and bulb cistern -- 39¼in. (99cm.) high.  Circa 1820. Auctioned 16 Dec 2994 Christies London. Unfortunately, Christies' images are with the Bridgeman Library who charge for reproduction, so the best I can offer is a link:

The ‘Maggi’ may well have been M. Maggi; HoHo Bird clocks and barometers have an M Maggi Sheraton from this period.

These are the Ortellis from this period that have a name but no town engraved on them. This is not unusual, and the usual explanation is that these were sold by pedlars going from place to place. However, it's possible that in some cases there is a town or address but the source text  does not mention it,  and there is either no image or only a low-res image to examine. Most are Sheratons, putting them in the 1815-1825 time-slot. So if gaps appear in the numbering sequence it will be because information has turned up that lets me rehome them into other categories.

MISC1: Unusual three-glass wheel barometer, nicely figured dark flame mahogany veneer, broken pediment, alcohol thermometer to the trunk and hygrometer to the centre ( see also BUCK5, the only other Ortelli so far with this unusual configuration). 8in. diameter main dial  is signed J. Ortelli & Co. 38in. (98cm.) high. Sold by Christies 7 October 1999. Unfortunately, Christies send their images to the Bridgeman image library, and I can't afford to pay the copyright fee to reproduce it - besides, dealers and auction houses give their images free, gratis and with their goodwill in the interests of research etc. But here is a link to it

    MISC2: Sheraton, signed Ortelli & Co., 3ft 3ins high. Sold by Gorringes. From the poor image it looks to have a fairly short shoulder beneath the broken pediment, and it is not possible to determine if there are the expected flower paterae. Image requested

MISC3: A really handsome, rope edge, mahogany Sheraton with shell and flower inlay signed Ortelli and Co, Warranted. Stuck on the back  are two old labels, one from Harwich and another from Manningtree, which suggest it was  either resold or repaired in its lifetime. The barometer was sold by It’s About Time, Westcliff-on-Sea. Try this link to see detail of the beautiful stringing. It is  surprising to find a barometer as pretty as this one without a town to its name.  

Courtesy of It's About Time, Westcliff.
Courtesy of It's About Time, Westcliff.
Courtesy of It's About Time, Westcliff.
Courtesy of It's About Time, Westcliff.
Courtesy of It's About Time, Westcliff.

The Mallett label probably refers to Henry Mallet, born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, circa 1813, who, according to the 1851 census, was was a silversmith at 10 Kings Quay Street, Harwich, living with his wife and an apprentice. But by the 1861 census he  and his wife had moved to Southwark, London, and he was employed as an clerk in the Small Arms department of the Tower. The label logically dates from before 1861. 
The second label, A.  Downing,  refers to Arthur Downing, born 1840 in Manningtree and brought up at 65 South Hill in the town.  The 1871 census records him at 20 High Street East, but his occupation is 'N.S.' (not stated). This may well be because he was in financial difficulties and had gone or was going  into into voluntary liquidation...  The London Gazette of 13 September 1872 records:

The Bankruptcy Act, 1869.

In the County Court of Essex, holden at Colchester.  In the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by Arthur Downing, of Manningtree, in the county of Essex, Watchmaker and Jeweller. The creditors of the above-named Arthur Downing who have not already proved their debts, are required,on or before the 20th day of September, 1872, to send their names and addresses, and the particulars of their debts or claims, to me, the undersigned, George Pje, of No. 3, Bank-buildings, Colchester, the Trustee under the liquidation, or in default thereof they will be excluded from the benefit of the Dividend proposed to be declared.—Dated this 9th day of September, 1872.

GEORGE PYE, Trustee.

 The 1881 census records him at 41 High Street, Manningtree, and confirms him as a watch maker. In 1891 his workplace/residence had moved to 17 High Street, and in 1901, the last year he is recorded in the censuses, he had moved to 129 South Road, Manningtree. 
So we know to within a couple of decades when the Ortelli came to him.  

MISC4:  Ortelli & Co Warranted, Sheraton, auctioned by Carlsen Gallery, near New York, Jan 16, 2011. Probably a fairly early Sheraton. Interestingly, instead of the typical shell inlays flanking the thermometer case it has lenticular versions of the stylised floral paterae at the top and bottom of the case

MISC5: N. Ortelli & Co. 8" dial Sheraton style but, unusually, in walnut, with shell and star inlays. Broken arch top. Height 38". Ex: Haskell/Jones . Auctioned by Eldred’s in the USA in 2004.

MISC6: Standard Sheraton mahogany barometer engraved on the dial by P. Ortelli; Warranted, 38 x 10 in., auctioned 03/10/ 2007 by Stair Galleries in the USA Shells and floral paterae. Looks to be circa 1820. Pale stringing, very plain engraving,. Image requested

MISC7: Sheraton signed N Ortelli & Co
By Courtesy of Bonhams Auctioneers

MISC7: Sheraton mahogany wheel barometer engraved N Ortelli & Co, Warranted ,Brass bezel and bevelled glass, with alcohol thermometer above, mounted on a mahogany case with moulded pediment centred by a turned finial and inlaid with marquetry flowers and conch motifs, outlined with boxwood stringing, wide 25cm, deep 5cm, high 97.5cm. The central round motif is unusual but simple, and beneath ‘Change’ is an upright leaf motif. Auctioned by Bonhams, Lot 120, 31 January 2013

Courtesy of

MISC8: Ortelli & Co  flame mahogany barometer with broken pediment,line inlay and brass finial. and Sold April 2005 by Bath Antiques Online . Something is engraved in the lower half of the dial, but the image resolution is insufficient to show it. If you bought or sold this barometer, please get in touch so it can be relocated to the correct section or given its own.

MISC9: Millers Price Guide online features a a neat Sheraton signed D. Ortelli, Warranted, 38" high. It has the usual conch shell inlay, with circular rosettes top and bottom. It is very hard to determine if the case is edged with stringing. The dial has a small star at the centre. Alcohol thermometer.

MISC10: N Ortelli Fecit Sheraton
By courtesy of Bonhams

MISC10: A mahogany Sheraton, strung with boxwood, with conch shells and flower paterae - flowers have slighly pointy petals. Signed N. Ortelli  above the centre and Fecit below, but definitely no town engraved. Dial is very simply engraved with a little central circular design. Auctioned 5 July 2006 Lot No 279 by Bonhams, Norwich.

Misc 11 Stick Ortelli
Note the chequered inlay of cistern cover

A mahogany stick, signed on the register plate "Ortelli Fecit". A very typical stick of its time, except that the cistern cover is inlaid with two concentric chequered circles . The image isn't good enough to read the register plate to see whether any town was also engraved so the information comes from the description given by Deburaux Associes of Paris who auctioned it on 15/12/2012. Tube was intact, but empty; alcohol thermometer.


J Ortelli Fecit
courtesy of Nimbus Antiques
J Ortelli Fecit
courtesy of Nimbus Antiques

A  stick barometer, with attractive rope stringing that is almost identical to that on Macc21, but even more interestingly signed J Ortelli & Co Fecit, and, like the other Ortelli sticks, dating to circa 1810-15. Currently on sale at Nimbus Antiques, Whaley Bridge. It has a Macclesfield provenance, but I don't know how far back that provenance extends.


A standard Sheraton, in the USA, signed Ortelli & CO above the spindle, with FECIT engraved below the spindle. Definitely no town. For sale on Ebay in Oct/Nov 2014. Images requested from vendor.

Charles Ortelli  of Ireland
In 1861, one Francis Ortella was married at St George In The East to Ellen Barratt. the name and profession of his father was stated to be Charles Ortella, Optician, and Francis's place of birth was Ireland. He was 24 when he married, giving him a likely year of birth of 1837. Francis became a looking glass silverer and carver and ended his days in 1909 in the Workhouse. If his father was an optician, in Ireland, there is a good chance he was to some extent involved with barometers, and if he had a son in 1837-ish, the likelihood is that he was born sometime in the first two decades of the 19th century.  But that is as far as I have managed to get, and no barometers signed by C Ortelli, anywhere in Ireland, have come to light. What is very obvious is that this Charles cannot be the Ortelli who died in London in 1814, a good twenty years before Francis Ortelli's birth in Ireland.

With few barometers carrying the word 'fecit' (though that is true of the instruments from many makers) there is no knowing how much of each barometer was made by the hand of the Ortelli whose name is engraved on it, or whether, between them, the London Ortellis could provided all the requisite expertise. That Peter (1), Charles and Francis Ortelli died in London is documented.  The fate of Joseph is not yet known. Antonio is well documented, and his story continues.  Of D, N. and, if he ever existed, an early John, there's no evidence beyond the barometers. Probably they all went back to Italy. However, the  D is likely to stand for Domenico, and there was a Domenico who was the father of Antonio. But there's not a shred of proof that this Domenico ever touched a barometer - on the other hand, he was alive at exactly the right time to have come to England.  N is probably going to be Niccolo -  male names that begin with D and N are not among the more common in Italy, and the inhabitants of the villages around Como were, to say the least conservative when it came to naming their children. That said, so were the English at this time.  We can say of N and D  that, to judge by the barometers, they were probably working in England in the period around 1810-1820, and assuming they and Joseph went home to Como they must have died before the state records start in 1866. And the possibility exists that some of the barometers they made were created in Rovenna and taken to Britain to be sold.

My personal opinion, for what it's worth, is that the Ortellis came over sufficiently early to have been skilled migrants and therefore makers to some extent and that they may well have had a significant if short relationship with Gabalio. However, the evidence of MACC4 and the National Trust's Tagliabue and Torre
barometer at Stourhead (see MACC4) also suggests a very strong association with Tagliabue and Torre or at the very least that they did business with the same case maker. The fact that Antonio was married to a Della Torre is not going to be insignificant.   
They lived and worked in  in Holborn, with addresses in Cross Street and Leather Lane. Banfield lists 94 Holborn, too, for this early period. The barometers were made in London and some were retailed in Buckingham either through Anthony or Peter. The large group of Macclesfield barometers remain to be explained.

In terms of quality, the barometers span quite a range. The sticks conform to a very traditional type: cistern tube,  with generally plain cistern covers, exposed tubes, broken pediments, and glazed doors. The use of herringbone veneer and other decoration turns them into handsome instruments, with good engraving.  The majority of wheel barometers were of the Sheraton type, some of lesser quality than others, doubtless reflecting the natural commercial imperative to meet and profit from the growing demand for affordable domestic instruments. Among the other wheel barometers a number stand out as individual and of very high quality. Some of these non-sheratons have cases in the style of Anone and Tagliabue, which would place them in the first decade of the 19th century.

It was suggested that the Ortellis must have been the most prolific of the barometer makers, and sometimes it seems it because nobody else seems to have researched and catalogued the extant barometers of any other maker. Obviously nobody is quite as mad (or, as our Italian friends would say: pazza) as me. But then I did a search on of auctioned barometers. Recorded Ortellis: 65; recorded Tagliabue barometers:248.

It is not really possible to look at a barometer and, without looking at the signature, say 'That is clearly an Ortelli'. Barometer makers were not the same as painters who have techniques and styles that make them easily recognisable.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say it is hard to recognise the work of individual makers after, say, the third quarter of the 18th century. However, what unites more than a few of the Ortelli instruments is the use of  foliate engraving, and this is sometimes carried into the thermometer register plate and, occasionally,  into the other dials . Put it this way, if you find a barometer with charming floral engraving, elaborate or simple, then you won't be surprised  to also find the Ortelli name.

Go to: The later Ortellis and the London Colony, and more

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