Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1767-1788 - Haymarket (Westminster)

Pyrotechnician Giovanni Battista Torre was born in 1760 (details are lacking). Having studied under the Franco-Italian theatre designer Giovanni Servandoni, he established a shop in Paris called the Cabinet de Physique Expérimentale. Here he sold barometers of his own manufacture, imported English scientific instruments, as well as books and prints. Combining theatre and science, he became a leading designer of firework displays and proprietor from 1764 of Le Petit Waux-Hall near Porte Saint-Martin.

In 1770 he oversaw the fireworks for the marriage of Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin, later Louis XVI. He was in England during the 1750s where he worked for Brock’s firework manufacturers (founded in 1698) on displays at Marylebone Gardens. During the 1770s he created various shows and the popularity of his pyrotechnic skills is reflected in a 1772 caricature entitled The Firework Macaroni’.

As late as 1778 he was supplying barometers to the Paris Observatoire. He died in April 1780. His son Anthony Torre continued in his footsteps. By 1767, he had started a successful print selling business in London. In 1781, in partnership with John Thane, he opened a second shop called The Ancient and Modern Print Warehouse at no. 28 Haymarket. In 1785 he entered into a partnership with Paul Colnaghi. He retired to Italy in 1788. Colnaghi established a business of fine art dealers that lasts to this day.

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