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Directory of Early Photographers in Leicestershire, Studio Notes, Lino TASSI and Luigi CELLA

This studio note is an addition to Robert Pols' original site. It relates to two photographers of Italian background who were mainly based in Lincolnshire, but it has recently been discovered that they operated for a short period in Leicestershire and in Peterborough (now part of Cambridgeshire).

Name: TASSI, Lino (1833-1869)

Address: Premises of Mrs Green, watch maker, High Street Grantham (1858-59); Walkergate or Watergate Grantham (1859-1868). For part of the week at the Corn Exchange, Melton Mowbray (1861-?). Address unknown at Peterborough for part of the week (?1863-?)

Working Dates: 1858-1866

Subjects, styles, advertising, other relevant information: Lino TASSI was born in Italy. We do not currently know where he gained his photographic skills or when and why he came to the UK. Lino was described as a former employee of Italian born Lincolnshire photographer, Luigi Cella, when he announced the opening of his first studio at the premises of Mrs Green, watch maker, High Street Grantham (Grantham Journal, Saturday 4 September 1858 p1). Interestingly this was the location of Luigi Cella's studio a year earlier. Lino offered "Portraits taken on leather, oil cloth &c &c (by the new process) which have the rich and full appearance of oil paintings. Miniatures and brooches beautifully executed. Correct likenesses from one shilling and upwards."

Lino formed a brief partnership with St Priy (Tassi and Priy) which was dissolved in July 1859 with Lino continuing the business on his own account (Grantham Journal, Saturday 9 July 1859 p1). A July 1859 advertisement (Grantham Journal 16 July 1859) showed Lino was diversifying into fancy goods and offering "A correct likeness, frame included, from one shilling upwards. Stereoscopic and other views. Apparatus supplied. Genuine perfumery from the continent. Harmoniums for sale." In the Grantham Journal, Saturday 25 February 1860 p3, Lino announced that he had "just returned from Paris with large and well assorted stock of goods, incl. French time pieces, artificial flowers, perfumery, harmoniums concertinas etc. Photographs taken in all sizes at the lowest prices, not to be surpassed in the trade." In the Grantham Journal, Saturday 23 June 1860 p3 his marketing claimed: "The cheapest photograph establishment in Grantham" and offered members of the Grantham Volunteers two copies for the price of one and "correct portraits of Joseph Garibaldi at 1s 6d each".

Lino didn't just operate from his studio. In the Stamford Mercury Friday 16 March 1860 p1 he added "M.Tassi will attend ladies and gentlemen's country residences if desired." The Grantham Journal, Saturday 13 July 1861 p2 reported that Lino Tassi's "portable likeness taking booth" was in operation at the Grantham Temperance Gala and Horticultural Exhibition.

Then on Saturday 21 December 1861 Lino announced that every Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday he would be at the Corn Exchange Melton Mowbray, Leics "for the purpose of taking likenesses in photography of every description from a miniature to life size". Although no advertisements have yet been found, Lino also, at some point, spent part of the week at a currently unknown location in Peterborough. See carte de visite below of an unknown lady, showing address as Grantham and Peterborough. No doubt new railway links enabled Lino to operate from multiple bases.

In 1865 Lino was given a sharp reminder of his status. His claim to be added to the revised Borough list of voters was not allowed as he was an alien (Grantham Journal, Saturday 7 October 1865 p2). The next year the Grantham Journal, Saturday 21 July 1866 p3, reported that Lino was about to return to Italy due to ill health. He transferred his business to Abraham Short from 10th August 1866. News of Lino's death on 23 Feb 1870 in Ars Trevoux, Ain, France appeared in the Grantham Journal, Saturday 2 April 1870 p4.

References: 1861 England Census, 1861 PO Directory Lincs (Lists Lino as print seller, frame maker and photographic artist, dealer in picture frames, engravings, prints, organs, harmoniums, accordions and flutinas). 1863 Morris' Directory Lincolnshire.
One of Tassi's portraits is in the National Portrait Gallery, subject Lady Mary Catherine Craven (née Yorke) and Caryl Walter Craven, 1860s

Carte de visite of an unknown lady, 1860s, by Lino Tassi

Lino Tassi backstamp

1860s carte de visite of an unknown lady, by L Tassi, Grantham and Peterborough, and enhanced image of Tassi palette and brushes backstamp from the carte.

Carte de visite, 1860s, by L Tassi - unknown lady and child.

Carte de visite of an unknown lady and child, 1860s by Lino Tassi of Grantham and Melton Mowbray. Note the UK and Italian flags and crown on the design on the reverse of the mount.

Name: CELLA, Luigi (1834-1897)

Address: Melton Mowbray 1857; Premises of George Dawson, auctioneer, Westgate, Grantham July 1857; Premises of Mrs Green, silversmith, High Street Grantham September 1857; Corn Exchange, Sleaford, May 1858; High St, Grantham, opposite the White Hart June 1858; Mr. Hobson's, Market Place, Boston, Aug 1859; Bargate Green, Boston 1861; Wide Bargate Boston 1863; 5 Wide Bargate 1873 - ,

Working Dates: 1857 - 1880s

Subjects, styles, advertising, other relevant information: Luigi CELLA was born in Ferriere, Piacenza, Italy in 1834. He came to Britain in December 1854 and shortly afterwards commenced business as a photographer. It is not currently known when and where he gained his photographic skills. He first appeared in a UK newspaper in the Leicester Chronicle, Saturday 4 October 1856 p1, when Luigi Cella, a Sardinian [sic] artist, staying in Leicester, favoured the Leicester Early Closing Association at the Temperance Hall with a selection of foreign airs, beautifully executed on the harmonium.

The next year the Stamford Mercury, Friday 26 June 1857 p1, reported that Luigi Cella's photographic Gallery in Melton Mowbray would close within a few days. Luigi thanked the Melton public for their support and announced that on 1st July he would have on view specimens of his portraits, views &c "in every variety of finish" at the premises of Mr. George Dawson, auctioneer and appraiser, Westgate, Grantham. (Interestingly in his newspaper advertisements in the 1870s Luigi claimed that his firm was established in 1859). On 4 July 1857 the Grantham Journal p4 reported Luigi's intention to visit Grantham and other Lincolnshire towns, before returning the following year to Melton Mowbray. The paper reported that Luigi's clients included his Grace the Duke of Rutland, and F.Grant, Esq., A.R.A., himself one of the finest portrait-painters of the day.

The move to Grantham took place immediately and the Grantham Journal Saturday 25 July 1857 p3 reported "At Mr. Dawson's Westgate, Grantham, Luigi Cella, having fitted rooms with every requisite for the production of first class photographic pictures invites attention to his specimens at the above address. Every portrait is taken by himself and is guaranteed not only to be a faithful likeness but an attractive artistic picture". Luigi may have taken all his portraits personally, but we know that he employed at least one other photographer at this time, fellow countryman, Lino Tassi (see above). Shortly afterwards the Grantham Journal Saturday 5 September 1857 p3 reported that Luigi had moved to Mrs Green's, silversmith, High Street Grantham.

Luigi's advertisement later that year gives a clear picture of the clientele he was targeting and his prices. Stamford Mercury, Friday 2 October 1857 p1. "PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT ROOMS, At Mrs. Green's, Silversmith, High-street, GRANTHAM. LUIGI CELLA respectfully intimates to the inhabitants of Grantham that he has fitted the above Rooms with every requisite for the production of First Class PHOTOGRAPHIC PICTURES, and that he can with the utmost confidence guarantee that every Portrait taken by him shall not only be a faithful likeness, but an attractive artistic picture. Luigi Cella has had the honor of taking Portraits of the following distinguished individuals:—Lord Wilton, Lord Newport, Lord de Grey, Lord Strathmore, Lord Cavendish, Count Portales, Sir G. Wombwell, Mr.Grant, A.R.A., Captain Markham, Col. Campbell, Hon. Mr. Craven, Mr. Davenport, His Grace the Duke of Rutland, Lord John Manners, Mr. Gilmore, Captain Thompson, His Grace the Duke of Beaufort and Family. Col. Somerset &c. L.C., from the facilities at his command, can insure superior impressions even in dull weather. Price from 2s.6d. upwards.— L. C. having important engagements in other towns, can only remain in Grantham a limited time". Perhaps Luigi's rapidly expanding client list was in part due to him being initiated into Freemasonry (St Botolphs Lodge Sleaford, no 858, in 1858, later joining Lodge of Harmony, Boston, No 339 in 1863 - Some of Luigi's cartes de visite include the masonic square and compasses symbol on the reverse).

True to his advertisements Luigi moved between a number of bases. The Sleaford Gazette, Saturday 22 May 1858 p1 placed him at the Corn Exchange Sleaford from 24 May 1858. The Grantham Journal, Saturday 5 June 1858 p1 recorded him opening in High St Grantham, opposite the White Hart. Then in the Sleaford Gazette, Saturday 28 August 1858 p1 he announced that he would be operating at Sleaford on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and in Grantham Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays. No doubt splitting his time between these two locations, 15 miles apart, was facilitated by the newly opened Sleaford, Boston and Midland Counties Railway. Then in the Stamford Mercury, Friday 5 August 1859 p1 Luigi announced that he would be opening a studio at Mr. Hobsons, Market Place, Boston. Luigi was to settle in Boston. On 28 December 1860 the Lincolnshire Chronicle reported his wedding to Catherine Glanville Cotton (1840-1926) at Boston's Roman Catholic Chapel. Luigi was still operating in Boston in 1861 when he announced the introduction of photographic visiting cards (Boston Gazette, Saturday 27 April 1861 p3. The carte de visite was first patented in France by Disderi six years earlier). During the 1860s Luigi diversified somewhat, offering his services as a translator to the non English-speaking captains of visiting ships. In 1861 Luigi opened a new studio at Bargate Green, Boston (Boston Gazette, Saturday 10 August 1861 p2). Later studio addresses between 1863 and 1873 may have been for the same or different premises. These were "Wide Bargate Boston adjoining Mrs Brumby's shop" (Boston Guardian, Saturday 10 January 1863 p1) and simply "Wide Bargate" (Boston Guardian, Saturday 23 May 1868) and "5 Wide Bargate" (Boston Guardian, Saturday 26 July 1873 p3).

In 1867 Luigi became a naturalised British Citizen (HO/143/5577). By 1874 Luigi had introduced a portrait club in which members could pay by installments for quality portraits (Boston Guardian, Saturday 26 July 1873 p3) and had further diversified becoming a tobacconist as well as a photographer, but he was in financial difficulties. The Gazette records him voluntarily calling meetings of his creditors, by which he reached a composition and avoided bankruptcy. (London Gazette 24075 13 March 1874 p.1673 Luigi Cella 5 Wide Bargate Boston Lincs, photographic artist - first meeting with creditors in proceedings for liquidation. Gazette 24097, 22 May 1874, p.2770; Gazette 24141 p.4750 16 Oct 1874; Gazette 24230 p 3752 23 July 1875 Photographic artist and tobacconist). No doubt Luigi's position had not been helped by competition driving down prices. His charge for a dozen cartes de visite dropped from 5/- in 1873 to 3s 6d in 1880. It is not currently known when Luigi ceased trading, he was still listed as a photographer at Side Bargate in an 1892 trade directory. He died in Boston in 1897 (Sleaford Gazette, Saturday 5 June 1897 p5).

References: 1861 PO Directory, Lincs; 1872 Whites Directory Lincs; 1892 Kelly's Directory at 7A Wide Bargate and 9 Silver Street, Boston.
1861, 1871 Census. In the 1881 England Census Luigi and wife Catherine were living at 9 Silver St Boston with their daughter Emilia b 1865 and son Luigi Antonio b 1869.
"The Italian Job" by Alex Darby, Root to Tip Blog https://roottotip.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/the-italian-job/comment-page-1/

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www.earlyphotostudios.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers operating 1840-1916, in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland and Suffolk. The original site was researched and written in 2011 by the late Robert Pols, photo historian and author, and this re-constructed site is dedicated to his memory.

This page was last modified: 27 October 2022, 08:17

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