Painter Egbert Jasperszoon van Heemskerk was born in Haarlem in 1634. He settled in London about 1674 and made a career as a genre painter. His contemporary reputation was that of a prolific and skilful painter of tavern and drinking scenes, peasant feasts, and Quakers-meetings. He frequently introduced his own portrait into his pictures.
The loutish tone of his work was appreciated by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, for whom he painted a number of works. Rochester was a member of the drunken Merry Gang at Charles II’s court. His attachment to Heemskerk’s work was in line with his personal behaviour. Heemskerk’s work was also reproduced in engravings, especially mezzotint. He died around 1704, but his reputation endured.
Portrait engraver and draughtsman Abraham Blooteling was born in Amsterdam in 1640. He was the pupil of the engraver Cornelis van Dalen. In 1660 he appears in Paris, where he was apprenticed to the well-known engraver Pierre van Schuppen, himself of Netherlandish birth. This explains the French character of his engravings.
Blooteling came to England in January 1673 on the order of Prince Rupert, then living at the court of Charles II. He was a key figure in the transfer of Dutch mezzotint to England, where the technique was adopted with such success that it later became known as the ‘English Manner’. The subject matter of his mezzotints includes religious, genre and allegorical scenes, but his portraits after works by Peter Lely and Anthony van Dyck were particularly admired.
Increasingly, Blooteling divided his energies between London and Amsterdam. He certainly continued to work for the English market, and quite possibly continued to make London his main base. In his later career he acted more as a publisher than as an engraver. The Hollstein catalogue of prints lists 143 engravings and 138 mezzotints and the National Portrait Gallery holds sixty-eight portraits associated with the artist. Blooteling died in 1690 in Amsterdam.
In June 1672, Charles II issued a declaration in which Dutch artists are invited to move to England. After the Restoration there was an expanding market for paintings in England, especially portraits and marine subjects – but increasingly also for landscapes in the Italianate or northern styles – that could not be satisfied by English artists. Leiden-born marine painter Willem van de Velde (of Flemish descent) responded to the call and left Holland for London to enter in the service of the king. Personal careers counted for more than loyalty or national pride at the time.
He was joined by his son Willem van de Velde the Younger who was to become the most famous of all marine painters, originating a rich English tradition in this genre. Soon after arriving they began their first major commission for the king, designs for a set of tapestries of the recent sea-battle of Solebay during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. He initally he lived with his family in East Lane, Greenwich, using the Queen’s House (now part of the National Maritime Museum) as a studio.
Following the accession of William and Mary this facility was no longer provided, and by 1691 he was living in Sackville Street, now close to Piccadilly Circus. Over the next three decades or so they painted pictures of ships, battles and the sea for the court, the aristocracy and naval officers. Willem the Elder died in December 1693, his son in April 1707.
In 1670, twenty-year old merchant and financier Solomon de Medina, of Portuguese Jewish origin, moved from Middelburg to London. He established a successful business supplying imported silks and other luxury textiles to the rich and famous. From 1689 onwards Medina acted as London factor for Antonio Alvarez Machado and Isaac Pereira, both of similar backgrounds, the ‘providiteurs généraux’ to the army of William of Orange in England and to the land forces of the allies in the Low Countries. In 1697 he moved to Richmond, becoming the first known Jewish resident there.
On 18 November 1699 William III dined at Medina’s house in Richmond, probably at Heron Court. Modern day Heron Square contains the site and some of the surviving buildings of old Heron Court which became the focus of Jewish population in eighteenthth century Richmond. Heron Court itself was once called Herring Court, but the name was changed for reasons of social grace. On 23 June 1700, in recognition of his services, the king knighted Medina at Hampton Court. He was the first professing Jew to be knighted. After the king’s death in March 1702, Medina returned to the Netherlands where he was involved in the food supplies to the allied troops throughout the campaigns of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. In 1711 he was summoned before the parliamentary commissioners for examining the public accounts. Medina admitted that he and his predecessors had regularly paid commission on their contracts to Marlborough. His evidence was used by the Tories to bring about Marlborough’s downfall. Medina died in 1720.
Ticino, the southernmost canton of Italian-speaking Switzerland, is known for its chestnuts. Traditionally, unemployment was high there. For centuries locals gained an additional income from selling roast chestnuts on the streets of cities such as Milan, Genoa or Lyons. The men would return home in spring with the money earned in the previous winter and then, in late summer, work on the next yield of chestnuts. During a succession of poor harvests between 1847 and 1854, large numbers of young men reluctantly left their homes in Valle Leventina or Val di Blenio for other European countries. The 1851 London census shows that a number of Ticinese workers were employed as artisans or waiters. Others continued selling chestnuts, large amounts of which were imported to the West End. Many of these immigrants had travelled by foot over the St Gottard Pass (only open from June to September) and then moved onto Calais via Geneva, Lyons or Paris. The prospect of finding paid work in London’s Swiss-Italian catering industry encouraged a further exodus of emigrants in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Many of them brought political convictions and home hostilities with them.
Hungerford Market, created in 1680, was located between the Strand and the Thames on a site formerly occupied by an estate belonging to the Hungerford family of Fairleigh in Wiltshire. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the old market had become dilapidated and was rebuilt in 1831. It was here that Carlo Gatti, a member of an impoverished patrician family from Marogno in Ticino, opened a French-style café after his arrival in London in July 1847. He was the first in a dynasty of restaurateurs and theatre owners. He began his career selling ‘goffres’ (a kind of waffle sprinkled with sugar) in Battersea Fields and from a stall at Hatton Wall in the Italian immigrant quarter of London.
From there he went on to open a number of cafés in the area which created a stir for their elegant marble tables, plate-glass mirrors, red velvet seating, small string orchestras, and high quality fare at moderate prices. He recruited relatives and locals from Ticino to work as waiters, chefs and managers in his establishments. In the course of the 1850s Carlo became the first mass manufacturer of ice cream, which had previously been an expensive delicacy. By 1858 he claimed to have sold up to ten thousand penny ices a day. Chocolatier Battista Bolla was born in 1819 in Ticino. He established his premises at no. 129 Holborn Hill. In 1849 he joined forces with Gatti. They exhibited their chocolate making machine at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Although imported from France, is was a ‘must see’ novelty in London at the time. Under pressure from his clientele and always willing to expand, by the end of the decade some of Gatti’s outlets began to provide ‘chops and chips’, thereby becoming London’s very first ‘Swiss café-restaurant’. Energetic and garrulous, and in spite of enormous commercial success, ‘Il Gatton’ (The Big Cat) never lost the demeanour and mannerisms of a mountain peasant.
The leading members of the next generation were Agostino and Stefano, the sons of Carlo’s brother Giovanni Gatti. In 1862, when Hungerford Market was demolished to make way for Charing Cross Station, the family was amply compensated, allowing to plan new ventures. The brothers opened a music-hall named Gatti’s Palace of Varieties at Westminster Bridge Road. After 1882 they redeveloped the interior of the Royal Adelaide Gallery to create a café-restaurant with entrances onto the Strand, William IV Street, and Adelaide Street. They installed an electricity sub-station in the cellars. The bar was much frequented by actors and gained a reputation as the Marble Halls because of its rich decoration which gave rise to the line ‘O God bless Gatti and the Marble Halls’. By the 1890s the Gallery was employing between 180 and 200 predominantly Italian-speaking waiters and forty chefs in enormous subterranean kitchens. Of the sons of Ticino who made the long trek to London, the Gatti’s were by far the most successful immigrants – but there were others figures too with an intriguing tale to tell.
Pietro Pazzi travelled from Ticino to Paris after the floods that devastated his valley in the winter of 1868/9. In 1870, most likely in connection with the upheavals of the Franco-Prussian War, he moved to London. Having worked as a waiter first, he opened Pazzi’s Restaurant at no. 271 Seven Sisters Road. The spot was well chosen. Finsbury Park station had been opened in 1869, marking the north-eastern limit of the suburban railway of what was to become the London underground system. Driven by nostalgia and radical political views, Pazzi founded the Unione Semionese in 1875. The union held its meetings and celebrations at his restaurant. The political divisions within his canton of origin were reflected in the London exile community and tore its unity apart. The split became public. Some, like the Gatti family, were hard-line conservatives. Stefano and his older brother Agostino acted as political recruiting agents and regularly shipped their waiters to Switzerland to vote for their conservative allies. Others, like Pazzi, resentful of the poverty that had forced their migration, became radicalised by the anarchist and socialist ideas circulating in the capital at the time.
Ticino did not just produce restaurateurs. Historically, the Ticinese were professional masons, stonecutters, stucco workers and sculptors. One of them, Raffaele Monti had joined the insurgents in the 1848 Italian rebellion. After defeat by the Austrian army, Monti fled to London where he was to remain for the rest of his life. He allied himself with manufacturers of ornamental sculpture and became involved with the Crystal Palace Company, which transferred Joseph Paxton’s exhibition building to Sydenham, Kent, in 1853. Monti provided allegorical statuary for the palace and its grounds. More intriguing is the figure of Angelo Castioni. Born in 1834 in Stabio, Ticino, he had settled in Paris. He took an active part in the 1871 Commune. As a member of the central committee and the commander of a battalion of the National Guard, he was held responsible for the executions of several conservatives. He took refuge in London in 1872. A sculptor who specialised in finishing the work of other artists, he established himself at no. 3 Upper Cheyne Row (his nephew Rudolph Pelli, also a sculptor, lived at the same address). By the 1880s he was assistant to the most eminent sculptor of the age, Viennese-born Edgar Boehm, a close and loving friend of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s rebellious daughter.
Politically, Castioni remained a radical. In August 1890 he travelled to Tuscany at the request of Boehm to select and order marble blocks directly from the quarry in Carrara. He made a detour to Bellinzona, the cantonal capital of Ticino, where on the evening of 10 September a popular uprising broke out. During the troubles Luigi Rossi, a conservative politician and member of the State Council of Ticino, was shot dead with a revolver by a flamboyantly dressed figure with an enormous red beard. The assassin was Angelo Castioni. With the support of fellow revolutionaries he was smuggled out of the country. Pietro Pazzi actively backed the September revolution and it was rumoured that he had organised the murderer’s quick and safe return to London.
The Swiss government formally requested Castioni’s extradition from Britain. He was arrested and brought before the magistrate at the police court at Bow Street. The extradition treaty with Switzerland, dated 26 November 1880, stated that a ‘fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is one of a political character, or if he prove that the requisition for his surrender has in fact been made with a view to try and punish him for an offence of a political character’. Since the murder had been politically motivated, the request for handover was rejected thus setting a precedent that established the principle of immunity for such crimes in English law.
Following the failure of the September 1891 uprising in Ticino, Pazzi turned his back on his radical past and became an upright British citizen. He died in August 1914, a wealthy man, and was buried as Peter Pazzi in the prestigious Circle of Lebanon vaults at Highgate Cemetery, surrounded by the great and the good of England. In 2015 an unsigned portrait bust of Pazzi was discovered in the family vault, most likely the work of Angelo Castioni and made in gratitude for the help he had received from his benefactor. Having renounced his radical past, Pazzi kept the bust away from curious eyes which may have led to embarrassing questions. He took it to his grave instead.
For us, the three million EU migrants in Britain, 29 March 2017 is a dark day. With a stroke of the PM’s pen, our legal presence in the country has become precarious. Psychologically, Brexit has brought upon us the status of outcast through the shameless manoeuvring of politicians, the relentless feeding of fake news by the press, and the gullibility of a poorly informed public.
Migration is the most contentious socio-political concern worldwide. For individual migrants, the difficulties associated with upheaval, loss and settlement are likely to increase their susceptibility to developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or addiction to alcohol and drugs. Migration, if anything, is a journey of the mind. Insecurity and low self-esteem (a lack of ‘balls’) are the migrant’s worst enemies.
Psychiatrists have used the phrase ‘psychic castration’. Banishment hurts. One of the defence systems is dissociation. This manifests itself in two contrasting ways: one is that of denigrating all that was left behind and exaggerating the love for one’s adopted country; the other is to idealize what is lost and curse the host country for its defects. Whatever psychological system may be in operation, emigration (either voluntarily or enforced) is a traumatic event.
Isolation and nostalgia force a sense of incompleteness upon the immigrant. Following his (her) arrival, he (she) experiences a mental state similar to that of a bereavement. It is the passing of a previous life, the loss of what has been abandoned and left behind. The speed of the integration process depends on the depth of these feelings raging within the individual. One of the early expressions of the psychological trauma of migration is recorded in a novel.
Prior to Napoleon’s invasion in 1797, Venice had long established a Republican government that encouraged both business and art. At its height, the Republic of Venice was home to renowned architects, painters and printers. Ugo Foscolo was born on 6 February 1778 on the Ionian island of Zante, then under Venetian control. Having completed his studies, he made his way in literary circles as a poet. By then, however, Venice’s days of glory were over.
In February 1789, Lodovico Manin took on the office of Doge, the last person to hold this once powerful position. He was forced to abdicate by Napoleon who disassembled Venice’s naval fleet, leaving the city defenceless. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna decreed Venice to Austrian control, where she would remain until Italian unification. By then, Foscolo had gone into exile. Having moved to Milan first and from there to Switzerland, he arrived in London in September 1816. Living at no. 19 Edwardes Square, Kensington, he fell repeatedly into debt and suffered frequent spells of depression.
His pain found an outlet in the creation and re-writing of an epistolary novel (the first in Italian literature) titled Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis. The novel was composed in Milan between 1798 and 1802. A second edition, with major changes, was published in Zurich (1816) and a third one in London (1817). The story features a young man who flees from Venice to escape Austrian occupation and commits suicide in despair whilst in exile. The inspiration for the novel was derived from a news story that had struck the author. Gerolamo Ortis, a student from Friuli, had killed himself in Padua under circumstances akin to those described in the story. Suicide was a much discussed topic at the time amongst Venetian migrants. As a fictional theme it set a precedent. Self-murder was not included (or accepted) in the novel until later in the nineteenth century.
Is there a link between migration and suicide? Linguistics illuminates what is emotionally hard to express. In 1945, novelist Thomas Mann celebrated his seventieth birthday in exile. There was a public meeting in his honour. In a speech he explained the common Latin origin of the English word ‘alien’ and of the German term ‘Elend’ (= misery). The migrant is an alien in the double interpretation of the word. The psychoses dubbed ‘bacillus emigraticus’, the virus of nostalgia and homesickness, hits every migrant at some time to a varying degree. Interestingly, the word alienate: make estranged in feelings or affections, was introduced into English in 1548, during a time that the first waves of immigrants from the Low Countries have been recorded (in the sense of ‘loss or derangement of mental faculties’ the word is recorded as early as 1482). It is significant that the early students of psychology were known as alienists.
Research on migration and rates of self-murder is inconsistent and inconclusive. It is doubtful if any clear association can be established. The act of leaving one’s country is tough, but once the decision is made, the migrant will give his utmost to succeed and to prove his worth to himself and the host country. Migration demands courage, energy and determination. Survival, not suicide, is in the migrant’s DNA. Integration is always possible, inclusion feasible, and participation essential. But whatever effort he makes, however substantial his contribution may be, or wherever he leaves his footprint, a sense of otherness, of being alien, of not belonging, will remain. It is the ‘motherless child’ syndrome. At times, this feeling fuels the urge to do more and better; on other occasions, it leaves a stifling sense of despondency and depression. That is the migrant’s trap.
In spite of – possibly: because of – social media, contemporary society is one of separation, isolation, and rising mutual hostility. Constant communication creates an island of loneliness in the middle of masses. Kiev-born existentialist philosopher Lev Shestov (he lived in exile in Paris after the October Revolution) suggested in All Things Are Possible (1905) that ‘Crusoes are to be found not only on desert islands. They are there, in populous cities … Loneliness, desertion, a boundless, shoreless sea, on which no sail has risen for tens of years, do not many of our contemporaries live in such a circumstance?’
Many city-dwellers may well share this experience. The migrant suffers the Crusoe challenge to an extreme degree. Isolation is his fundamental condition; adaptation his ultimate challenge. It is often (conveniently) forgotten that Daniel Defoe’s most celebrated character Robinson Crusoe – ‘the emblematic English emigrant and imperialist’ as the chauvinist interpretation goes – was in fact an alien, the son of a German merchant. His name Kreutznaer was corrupted to Crusoe. Defoe’s story of a castaway fighting against all odds on a hostile island is an allegory of immigrant life in Britain – then and now.
Little is known about the background of landscape painter Gerard van Edema. A native of Friesland, he was born around 1652 in Amsterdam. Before settling in England around 1670, he had travelled extensively, to Norway, Newfoundland, New York and Surinam. He may have been the Nicholas Edema who painted insects and plants in Suriname. His arrival in England coincided with an increasing popularity of this genre in the decoration of country houses such as Althorp or Drayton House in Nottinghamshire. From his own estate in Richmond, he painted views of the Thames at least twice (one of the paintings is in the Royal collection). He was partly responsible for creating a vogue for dramatic Scandinavian scenes and the depicting of wild natural images with mountain storms, cliffs, waterfalls, winding rivers and fallen trees – everything one does not associate with the Low Countries.
Van Edema’s work contributed to the evolution of the Picturesque. Mount Edgcumbe House overlooks Plymouth and the waters of the Sound and the English Channel. It was the ancestral home of the Edgcumbe family for over four hundred years. Richard Edgcumbe employed three Dutch immigrant painters, Van Edema, John Wyck and Willem van de Velde the Younger, to have a series of views painted for his collection. The artists remained for some time at Mount Edgcumbe. A heavy drinker, Van Edema died at his home in Richmond about 1700.