ON WEDNESDAY, Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull will sell an early 19th Century mahogany stick barometer by J. Della Torre of Perth. It carries tempting pre-sale hopes of £300-£500.
Joseph Della Torre seems to have arrived in Perth around 1813. An advertisement from 1818 survives in which he is described as a carver, gilder and glass manufacturer from Italy. The advert thanks customers for their patronage and states that he is about to move his shop to 27 High Street, opposite St John Street, where may be had a great variety of “the best foreign and British Plate Mirrors; all sizes, in plain or gilt frames; Wheel Barometers; Thermometers; Diagonal Mirrors, Telescopes, etc, etc.”
Torre worked away there for 40 years before, in June 1853, opening a second shop at 3 George Street.
Old age presumably came along as, just a year later, he disposed of his entire business to his associate Charles Grego. Torre was described then as carver, guilder and looking-glass manufacturer, but importantly also an optician. This makes me suppose that he had a hand in creating the lenses for his scientific instruments, and was not simply a retailer.
Italians who traded as “carvers, gilders and barometer makers” represented a substantial proportion of the overall emigration from Italy to Scotland in the mid-1800s. The Edinburgh fine art trade at that time included names such as Zenone, Butti & Co, Molteni, Zerboni & Co and Battistessa & Co. So Perth’s J. D. Torre had commercial compatriots working here.
Growing up, we used our barometer in the way kids use smartphones nowadays – one tap and we’d have that day’s weather!
Picture: Perth barometer, £300-£500 (Lyon & Turnbull).