Street View: 40
Address: 418 Oxford Street
Tallis Street View 40 lists Baronto, alabaster warehouse, at 418 Oxford Street. No first name is given, but Part 2 of the Post Office Directory (name index) for 1841 lists a Louis Baronto at number 418. Part 1 (street index) of the same directory, however, gives us Louis Baronto, alabaster artist, at number 363. When we look at the 1841 census, we do indeed see Louis and his family in the vicinity of John Leader, a coach builder (number 361 in Tallis’s Street View) and Thomas Kennedy, music seller (number 364). Unfortunately, the 1841 census does not give any house numbers; the enumerator just went from house to house along the street, but it does prove that in 1841 Baronto lived nearer number 363 than 418. Robson’s Directory for 1839 gives us a J. Baronto, modeller, at 418 Oxford Street, but whether that is a mistake or whether there really used to be a J. Baronto is not known. Any further records, and there are not many, of Louis Baronto, all give number 363, which suggests a move from number 418 to number 363 in 1840 or 1841.
The census tells us that Baronto was 36 years old, a sculptor, and married to Eliza (30 years old). Also living at number 363 are Gesualda (16 years old), Dalmiro (3 years old) and Casira (1 year old). Eliza was born in England, but not in Middlesex; the youngest children were born in London, but Gesualda and Louis were from ‘foreign parts’. In January 1843, three Baronto children were baptised in St. James’s, Westminster: Dalmiro (born 30 Sept. 1837), Chisera (born 25 Sept. 1839), and Seraphina (born 5 Jan. 1842). Chisera was the second daughter to be so named, as just before she was born, another child with the same name was buried at St. Anne, Soho (Ghisera, 3 years and 11 months old, buried 8 Sept. 1839). The unusual names suggest that the Baronto family originally came from a Mediterranean country. Italy would certainly not be strange in relation to the alabaster warehouse Baronto ran.
There are broadly speaking two kind of alabaster: calcite or Oriental alabaster, and gypsum or European alabaster, the latter can be scratched by a fingernail, but calcite alabaster is harder and needs to be worked by a knife. In either case, the material is slightly soluble in water, so can really only be used for ornaments indoors (more info on the different alabasters here).
In the 19th century, Italian sculptors came to England to produce and/or sell marble, alabaster and plaster ornaments and figures to an ever-increasing English market. While in the past such figures only adorned large country houses, by the 19th century, these ornaments came within reach of the middle classes who created such a demand that Italian workshops sent over travelling salesmen(1), but there were also Italian figure makers who saw a chance of bettering their lives and who came to England of their own accord.(2)
Although the 1843 Post Office directory lists Baronto as alabaster artist and sculptor and the census also described him as a sculptor, we have no evidence that he did more than sell the stuff. The 1841 catalogue of the Polytechnic Institution lists him as the agent for MacDonald & Leslie from Aberdeen, incidentally also giving a second address where the finished products could be seen: 69 Strand, which in the Tallis Street View is the shop of T. Daft & Son, hot house builders. Alexander MacDonald and his partner William Leslie were granite quarriers and sculptors who specialised in funerary monuments and public features, such as fountains (more info on the firm here).
The baptism of the children in 1843 is the last piece of evidence I found of Louis Baronto in London, but an entry in the Documents of the Senate of the State of New York, Volume 4 (1844) may tell us where he went. A Louis Baronto (the same?) received a silver medal for alabaster figures shown at the Sixteenth Annual Fair of the American Institue in October 1843. But that is all I could find about his later life, although his son Dalmiro may have ended up in Brasil (see here).
Postscript: As you can see from the comment on this post by Ariane dos Reis Axl, Dalmiro did indeed end up in Brazil and his brief life story was found in a statue of Nossa Senhora das Dores. While restoring the statue, Dalmiro inserted a trade card (green document below) and a handwritten note in (more or less phonetic) English explaining that he had restored the statue on 20 December 1883 by re-glueing her head, by painting her head and hands and by given her new feet of plaster of Paris. She was also given a new pedestal. He wrote that his name was Dalmiro Joseph Baronto, that he had been born in Oxford Street near the Pantheon, grew up in New York and that he had married in Brazil where he had been living for the past 33 years. From his trade card we can see that he not only restored statues, continuing the line of work that brought his father from his home country (Italy?) to England, but that he had also embraced the new art of photography. His mention of New York as the place where he grew up, also strenghtens the supposition that it was Louis Baronto of Oxford Street who went to New York and received a medal at the 1843 fair, but I still have not found any more information about the family’s time in New York. And did they all move to Brazil at one point, or was Dalmiro the only one to go there? Maybe one day, I will know the whole story.
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