Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1828-1841 - Dean Street (Soho)

Artist supplier Giovanni Arzone was born in Italy. There are no details about his birth or background, but he was in London by 1828. Having set up business at no. 54 Dean Street, Soho, he became a leading maker and wholesale supplier of ultramarine in the 1830s. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, literally beyond the sea’, because the pigment was imported from mines in Afghanistan by Italian traders during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. It was the finest and most expensive blue used by Renaissance painters (symbolising holiness and humility).

It remained a costly pigment until a synthetic ultramarine was invented in 1826. Arzone sold ultramarine in different qualities, as well as watercolour boxes, French brushes and pencils including Conté crayons, black lead pencils, powder colours, easels, primed cloths, prepared panels, and millboards. The profession of artists’ colourman was a risky one. It has been suggested that in January 1841 Giovanni was poisoned, possibly from the slow inhalation of the fine powder used in the preparation of colours. He would have employed arsenical cobalt ore in the preparation of ultramarine.

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