Family find out about their celebrity sculptor ancestor at Wisbech Museum

PUBLISHED: 11:17 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:17 24 October 2019

Graham and Margaret Blankley at Wisbech Museum with two plaster heads sculpted by his ancestor Pellegrino Mazzotti. Picture: JULIE WILLIAMS

Graham and Margaret Blankley at Wisbech Museum with two plaster heads sculpted by his ancestor Pellegrino Mazzotti. Picture: JULIE WILLIAMS

Archant

A family has discovered more about an Italian ancestor in Wisbech who sculpted historic figures including Lord Nelson.

Pellegrino Mazzotti was born in Tuscany in 1795 and died in Wisbech workhouse aged 85.

His great-great-great-grandson Graham Blankley, from Chesterfield, tracked him down to Wisbech after relatives started tracing the family history.

Pellegrino, who had a career making fashionable plaster busts and death masks, donated four busts to Wisbech Museum.

One of his busts of Nelson is in the National Maritime Museum and his head of Shakespeare is in the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum in Wisbech.

Graham and his wife Margaret visited the museum to find out more.

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He said: "My sister in Australia bought Mazzotti's bust of Nelson and my uncle has been to Italy to try and find ancestors further back without success so far.

"Considering we arrived at Wisbech Museum out of the blue, they were so helpful with looking up information and welcoming and it was exciting to see his work still on display there after so many years.

"He obviously was quite successfully making a living in the town as the census showed he maintained a studio and lived there, having returned to the town from Ely, from 1854 until at least 1871.

"He died in the workhouse in 1879 probably because he was too old or too ill to go on working."

Pellegrino, known as Pilgrim by his English friends and clients, had studios in Ely and Norwich Strangers Hall - where there's a plaque to remember him.

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