Monument to Blanche Roosevelt Maccheta, c.1899. Renovated in 1933.
Reason for Listing
* Artistic interest: the statue is of high sculptural quality and is a good likeness of the famous artiste, who is depicted in fin de siècle style wearing classical dress and striking a suitably operatic pose;
* Historic interest: Blanche Roosevelt Macchetta was the first American woman to sing at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and had a successful career as a singer and writer in England and Europe;
* Group value: with other listed tombs in the Grade I-registered Brompton Cemetery.
Blanche Isabella Pauline Tucker (1853-1898) was born in Sandusky, Ohio, daughter of Elizabeth Roosevelt and Senator William Henry Tucker of Wisconsin, a lawyer. Her mother's family were distantly connected to the famous political dynasty, and Blanche used the Roosevelt surname when she appeared on stage. Accompanied by her mother, Blanche travelled to Europe to engage in vocal studies in Paris and Milan, and worked as a special correspondent from Paris for newspapers in Chicago and London. She made her debut at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1876 under the name of Mlle. Rosavella, appearing as Violetta in La Traviata; she was the first American female performer to sing Italian opera there, and went on to sing in Milan, Belgium, Holland, and Paris. She appeared as Josephine in the original run of HMS Pinafore, her debut at the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1879, and was chosen by Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte to play the same role for American audiences at New York's Fifth Avenue Theatre later that year. She stayed with the company until March 1880 having played Mabel, a character she created, in The Pirates of Penzance.
After a short spell of running her own theatre company she retired from the stage and devoted herself to journalism and literature. By this time she was married to Signor Maccheta, Marquis d'Alligri. She was acquainted with important figures in the world of literature and the arts, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Giuseppe Verdi, Victorien Sardou, Wilkie Collins, Gustave Doré, and Guy de Maupassant, whose mistress she became in 1884. She wrote several novels and biographies, including The Life and Reminiscences of Gustave Doré (1885) which gained her recognition by the Académie française, a first for an American woman.
Roosevelt Maccheta was seriously injured in a carriage accident in Monte Carlo in 1897. She returned to London but never recovered from her injuries and died at 25 Montagu Street, Portman Square, aged 42 years.
Brompton Cemetery was one of the 'magnificent seven' privately-run burial grounds established in the 1830s and 1840s to relieve pressure on London's overcrowded churchyards. It was laid out in 1839-1844 to designs by the architect Benjamin B Baud, who devised a classical landscape of axial drives and vistas with rond-points at the intersections marked by mausolea or ornamental planting, the latter devised by Isaac Finnemore with advice from J C Loudon. The main Ceremonial Way culminates in a dramatic architectural ensemble recalling Bernini's piazza in front of St Peter's in Rome, with flanking colonnades curving outwards to form a Great Circle, closed at its southern end in a domed Anglican chapel (the planned Catholic and Nonconformist chapels were omitted for financial reasons). The cemetery, never a commercial success, was compulsorily purchased by the General Board of Health in the early 1850s, and has remained in state ownership ever since.
MATERIALS: Marble monument set within granite kerbing.
The statue depicts a woman in classical dress, holding a rose to her chest with her left hand and wearing a bracelet with a shawl clasped in the right. It is likely to have been imported from Italy but bears a resemblance figuratively to a statue in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, of Elaine Lady Faulkiner, however the heads are individual portraits, the facial likeness is close to that of Blanche as seen in photographs of the day. Sandalled feet stand on a rocky plinth with a floral motif carved close to the left foot, below which is a cuboid marble block with chamfered corners on the upper surface, and an inscription inset to the front that includes the epitaph 'By her brilliant accomplishments / and rare graces of mind and person / she gave distinction / in the world of literature and art / to the name of Blanche Roosevelt'. A two stage plinth completes the monument, the lowermost is set into the grass and that above contains further inscription denoting the renovator, APK, and 'A life that all the muses deck'd / with gifts of grace that might express / all comprehensive tenderness / all subtilising intellect'. The monumental masons were also the undertakers, Griffin House of Regent Street.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.