The numbering of the houses in Cologne in 1794

On the 3rd of October 1794, in view the French troops standing just outside of Cologne, the council approved of the plan of the guard-committee (“ehe noch der Plan die ganze Einrichtung der Sicherheits-Wacht geendigt werden könnte, […]“) that all houses in the city were to be numbered without exception and that, depending on the location,  appropriate lighting was to be put up. It was given order to install the lighting immediately, while the numbering was left to fate.
Source: HAStK, Bestand 10 (Ratsprotokolle) Nr. 241 Bl. 216v.

On the 6th of October 1794, French troops occupy the city. On the 7th of October, the council decided that every local government official has to hand in an inventory of all citizens and non-citizens in his area within 48 hours and, furthermore, the guard-committee is given authority to number the houses accordingly and accomplish the mission (“[…] der Numerirungs-Punkt deren Häußer zur löblichen Wachts-Kommission verwiesen wird, die also mit der Durchführung beauftragt wird“).
Source: HAStK, Bestand 10 (Ratsprotokolle) Nr. 241 Bl. 225v.

On the 20th of October 1794, senator Gottfried von Gall notes in his diary that the numeration and the written documentation of the houses which started eight days ago is continued: “es wurden alle Hauser numerirt und litterirt, mit diesem bereits 8täg angefangener Arbeit continuirt.”
Source: HAStK, Bestand 7030 (Chron. u. Darst.) Nr. 175, Bl. 71v.

The printer Heinrich Josef Metternich (a member of the council) applies for the permission to publish an address-calendar, which should, amongst other things, include the house numbers, which had been put up in the meantime, and he seeks allowance to collect all relevant details. He emphasises: “daß durch die von Euer Gnaden veranstaltete Polizey-Einrichtung … nunmehro alle Häußer hießiger Satdt nach Ordnung der Colonelschafften mit Nummeren bemerkt sind.“
Source: HAStK, Bestand 350 (Franz. Verw..) Nr. 306, Blatt 3-6

In the second address-book of Cologne of 1797, the widow of Wilhelm von Lemmen seel. was still listed as the tenant of the house in the Glockengasse which had been given the number 4711.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 2. Adreßbuch: Gemeinnütziger…Adresse-Kalender der Stadt Köllen, Köln 1797, S. 103

Wilhelm Mülhens is listed as the tenant of the house no sooner than in the 3rd edition of the address-book of Cologne; ‘in the speculation business’ is given as his occupation; he is not yet listed under the manufacturers of Eau de Cologne in the branch directory.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 3. Adreßbuch: Verzeichnis der Stadt-Kölnischen Einwohner, Köln 1797, S. 179

In 1811, the continuos numeration is changed into the system of numbering streets separately in the way it is done today.

In the preface to the 1813 French edition of the address-book, the editor Thiriart claims that there had not been any house numeration before the arrival of the French in the city (inconnu á Cologne avant l´arrivée des armées françaises au bord du Rhin) and that the order for the numbering of the houses had been given in 1795. That is were the legends begin.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, Itinéraire de Cologne, 1813, S. 12

The picture of the French military officer, painting the house number 4711 on the facade of the house in the Glockengasse while sitting on his horse, is a product of  advertising.  A piece of tapestry, a gobelin, which had been ordered and made in the 1920s, served as a model. The scenic version of it spread widely in the 1965s and the 1960s.
Source: RWWA Abt.33, 160 Jahre N° 4711 1752-1952, Köln 1952, o. S.

Sources: Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln (HAStK), Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (RWWA), Cologne

Feminis’ alleged endowments

Dr. Karl Kempkes

Feminis’ alleged endowments

The following text will rebut the claim that Giovanni Paolo Feminis (date of birth unknown, died 1736 in Cologne) possessed  a prodigious fortune. This belief is based on an alleged  donations he is said to have paid towards the repairs of his hometown church in Santa Maria Maggiore. According to Maurizi and many other authors, Feminis donated 60,000 lira to support the rebuilding of the parish church in Santa Maria Maggiore. The authenticity of the source is blurred as Maurizi refers to Scaciga, who, in turn, refers to Cavalli. In “Cenni statistico e storici de la valle Vigezzo” (1845) the latter writes about Feminis’ supposed endowment, without quoting any kind of source or evidence. It is, moreover, impossible to consult any original documents relative to Feminis’ financial situation or funds, as they no longer exist. An inquiry involving several correspondence books from the period which are housed in Cologne in the archive of the company Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz, confirms Mönckmeier-Schaefers’  following conclusion: Feminis’ contribution to the charitable cause, which was set up by Johann Maria Farina and other figures from Santa Maria Maggiore, consisted of only 100 Dopien (about 2.500 lira). Furthermore, he promises an additional 100 Dopien, but to everyone’s great disappointment neither he nor his widow kept their word. The information mentioned above can be verified in several of Johann Maria Farina’s letters, in which Farina writes about his many but unavailing attempts to engage Feminis  to a more generous contribution.

1. According to the information which we dispose of,  what can we say to Feminis’ fortune?
2. If Feminis’ fortune is to be question, is it really possible he might have played a role in the production of Eau de Cologne?

The endowments which Feminis is said to have made to the benefit of his hometown are the only arguments which point to the possibility of Feminis having been a wealthy man. There moreover exists a source which could be used to prove this assertion. It’s a document written by Maurizi called « Santa Maria Maggiore e Crana, 1928 ». In it Maurizi writes: “ “Concorse con 60.000 lires imperiali all’erezione dell’attuale chiesa di Santa Maria“, only he himself has this information from Antjoer, from Scaciga who writes: „Vite di Ossolani illustri“.  This version however doesn’t come from  an official source either. It’s based on Cavalli’s text who relates: „Cenni statistico e storici de la valle Vigezzo“. The authenticity of the donation is thus doubtable as no official document can be used to support the donation.

Where are all the documents as well as all the letters in relation to Feminis?
Shouldn’t we consider that they might have been destroyed?

How did Maurizi and Cavalli come to know about the existence of 60 000 lira? They don’t happen to be contemporary writers! Feminis died in 1736 and Cavalli’s book was published in 1845!

In addition, one has to add that the information from Mönckmeier-Schaefer, who asserts that Feminis donated the modest sum of 100 dopien (2500 lira) for the reconstruction of the church in Santa Maria Maggiore is existent and can still be consulted.

In the paragraph “Feminis and the other 19th century Italian authors ”, some more information is given about Cavalli’s work, as well as his detailed version in relation to Feminis. It is mentioned that Cavalli carried out his research in relation to Feminis at Jean Marie Farina’s address in Paris, that his research is by no means founded on historical facts, but rather on a selection of rumours which in fact mention the donation of money for the construction of a hospital destined to needy in Santa Maria Maggiore!

It isn’t possible to say that the original documents have disappeared or that they were mislaid. It is however possible to imagine that someone may have wanted them to disappear in order to replace them with another story. It appears that even the original documents in Italy have disappeared. Some explanations are however to be found in the archives of Jean Marie Farina opposite the Julich square (Cologne). Amongst the documents which were preciously conserved there is sufficient information as to these endowments enabling us to come to a number of conclusions.

On 12 May 1733, Jean Marie Farina (Cologne), who had decided to participate generously in the funding of the reconstruction of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, sent his cousin a letter who in those days lived in Aix-la-Chapelle. He told him about having met Feminis who himself had planned on donating 100 dopien for the reconstruction.

(… „avanti Jeri o fato incontro del sig.feminis aueme parlato insieme fra altro atorno sa bona volonta che a di munurare la nostra chiesa si e datto dintendere astengers p sine alla soma die 100 dopie“)

This however doesn’t seem to satisfy Farina who asks his cousin Guilielmo to pay him a visit in Cologne as fast as possible so as to convince Feminis to raise his offer.
(„seconda la parenza se ne va al grangalopo piliate gesta cosa al vore e non perdete tempo quando douersi uenire qui a posta”)

On the same occasion, he encourages his cousin to not loose hope and to by no means stop his donations.
(„non ni deue rinchresere in mentre muerete agualmente merito auanti.“)

On 27 May 1733, Farina writes to Barbieri in Brussels explaining how he, his cousin Guilielmo and himself had paid Feminis a visit so as to attempt to persuade him of the seriousness of the situation. He made it clear that unless help were to arrive rapidly, the church of their hometown would most probably cave in very rapidly.
(„..a poi ui losapere dire intra me et il cogine Guilelmo auemo dato a conosere a questo sig. Feminis che la nostra chiesa parochiale di sta matiene necesita desere riperata fra altro che in un corto loge come mi pose spiegare e degia crapata e se non si porta rimedio che in poco tempo cuore rischio di caschare.“)

Farina also wrote that Feminis promissed a 100 dopien should collective funding be set up.
(„auanti jieri o fatto incontro del sudeto oue che mia promeso che p.una opera similie a risolto p.sua parte di astengersi p.sine a 100 dopie.“)

As Feminis decided only to join under the condition that it should be a collective effort, Farina decided to instantly write to „Corati and Sindici“ to inform them of the situation and to ask them to please contact a maximum number of acquaintances who themselves could participate in the funding.

(„p.auer da questo sudeta soma bisogna scriuere di subito alla patria a nostri SS.Corati e sindici di sud chiesa che ui mandano a voi e a altri gelantomini patrioti che in questo paesi si ritrovano una spezie di suplica che si richie de agiuto da questi nos patrioti abitanti in questo paesi p far sudeto opera.“)

On 25 January 1736, Farina wrote to Barbieri in Brussels to inform him of the situation of the parish church. He explained that to carry out the repairs, the sum of 25 000 lira was necessary and that only 15 000 had been raised. This is said to have surprised Feminis who in turn offered an extra 100 dopien.

(„.. ui hano scrito dalla patria atorno la nostra chiesa anche ame mi hanno scrito il med. et ne o fato il riporto a questo sg.feminis con dirgli che nesta acordata p uinti cinque miglia lires e si come non auemo in cassa che li 15000 siami imbarasati mi a promeso che fara pr anche cosa, mi soponge che sara p. anco 100 dopie.“)

On 3rd July  1736, Farina wrote to Barbieri to point out that he had still not received confirmation on behalf of Feminis relating to the endowment he had promised.
(„atorno la nostra chiesa ancho noi aueme auisa che ua auanzando poi a questo Sig.feminis p.sine al presente non posio da luy cauarne una certutuda.“)

On 24 August  1736, Farina notes that he will, from that point on, not disturb Feminis regarding the reconstruction of the church.
(„atorno lafara p la nostra chiesa lascio questo sig.feminis di riposo“)

On 26 November  1736, Feminis died. After his death, the fund raising for the church in Santa Maria Maggiore didn’t however cease!

On 10 October 1737, Farina wrote to Barbieri to tell him that his brother, Carl Hieronymus, had got in contact with Feminis’ widow in the aim of seeking her financial help in the reconstruction of the church.
(„mio fratt degia Mercordi scorso di ne e ritornato p dusseldorf senza abia con questa uechia p ancho podato optenire fra altro per la nostra chiesa“)

In a following correspondence, he once again pointed out his having spoken to Feminis’ widow, in order to ask her to make a donation to the church in her will.
(„mio fratt e stato di nouo qui le scorse Ste feste e in aparenza comincia auer disposto la uechia a far qualche cosa per la nostra chiesa che si fera col suo Tastamento.”)

The widow died 24  Febuary 1739 and 7 March 1739, Farina writes to Barbieri so as to express his disappointment regarding the widow’s testament in which no mention of the church or of any donation is made.
(„la uedoua feminis a lasiato p testamento tuto il fato suo a y poueri… grande pena che si a dato mio fratello el il Guilielmi pensando di tirare qualche cosa….per la nostra chiesa sono stato tuto inuane“)

These various excerpts allow the following conclusions: Feminis is repeatedly encouraged to participate in the donations towards the his hometown church. The various attempts are however all in vain.
Feminis isn’t responsible for getting together a group of volunteers willing to raise the funds for the reconstruction of the church.
Feminis promised to donate 100 dopiens (2500 lira) should the project be successful and find enough interest.
It’s Farina in fact who happened to ask the Italians in Germany for their help.
Before making a donation, the fund raisers had already managed to get 15 000 lira together.
Feminis promised to pay an extra 100 lira, which he, however, never did.
When Feminis died, the fund raising was pursued.

Unsuccessfully did one try to get some money out Feminis’ widow.

In 1739, three week after the death of Feminis, it’s with regret that one notes that she didn’t leave anything in her will.

These remarks plainly point to the impossibility for Feminis to be at the source of the financing of the church.

This here isn’t a plain correspondence dating back to 1733. The quoted extracts are witnesses from a contemporary who not only was interested in the affair, but who also happened to be implicated in it. It moreover has to be pointed out that the witnesses of the past, date back to the years between 1733 and 1739. They are contemporary witnesses to the analysed events, thus making them all the more precious. It’s important to know that some expatriates had a very specific relation to their hometown and that some regularly visited.  Carl Hieronymus Farina and Guglielmi  did take particular care of Santa Maria Maggiore which meant that had Feminis indeed donated a particularly large sum of money to the town, they would without a doubt have been informed about it. Moreover, had he already proved to be very generous, one could only scarcely imagine that Farina would have asked him for yet some more.  As shown previously, the alleged donations mentioned by the Italian author can’t really be taken seriously. The same goes for the pictures of Feminis which one can see in the church, making him out to be the main donator.  The rumour that Feminis should have donated 60000 lira is not to be taken seriously. Such a sum of would in those days never have gone unnoticed. Had that been the case, an extra inquiry would have never been necessary as the money would have been paid when Feminis was alive.
To tell the truth, all the versions are inspired of what Maurizi wrote. Cavalli and Scaciga relate that Feminis was responsible for the reconstruction of the parish house as well as the oratorio of Crana, however, their arguments are based on Maurizi.
(„fece del proprio riedificare la casa del comune ed il bell Oratorio di Crana“)

Cavalli restricts his comments to the information given in the paintings of Feminis which he uses as follows:„…e del proprio riedificatore dell‘ Oratorio e casa del Comune di Crana.“

The historic value of these inscriptions will be closely dealt with in a forthcoming chapter. Striking, is that Cavalli at no point mentions the sum of money paid towards the oratorio of Crana. Maurizi only mentions the sum of 1000 lira (see S. Maria Maggiore e Crana, 1928, p.119/20), information which he relates to a  „convenzione stipulata tra Carlo Gerolamo Farina e Carlo Giglielmi“ described as beeing a „procuratori del Feminis“ –„e i terrieri di Crana“. This is how Maurizi exposes it:

„ 1743, all‘ 8 di settembre, nelle casa nuova della Communita di Crana, essendosi ivi congreati li uomini della terra di Crana, il sig. Carlo Gerolamo Farina, anche a nome del signor Carlo Guglielmi, ha proposto che vi sono lires dieci mille di Milano, d’oblazione fatta a dai medesimi procurata per riedificare l’Oratorio di Crana e fare un campanile; quale oblazione e stata fatta  ed e pronta con questo che li terrieri di Crana si obblighino di fare le oure per bisognevoli per portare i sassi, sabbia e legnami ed altre oure per transportare materiali bisognevoli per fare detto Oratorio e campanile; che pero detto signor Farina anche a nome del sig. Guglielmi ha interpellato li detti di Crana si intendono di fare le dette oure si o no, accio si possa venire alla riedificazione di detto Oratorio e far il campanile.- Pero, attesta questa oblazione, si obbligano di fare le suddette oure: Pietro Francesco Mattei, Giorgio de Giorgis…“

Maurizi described this endowment (oblazione) as coming from Johann Paul Feminis and being administrated (procuratori)  by Karl Hieronymus Farina and Karl Guglelmi. If so, how come those representing Feminis didn’t at any time mention the names of their noble client? It is mentioned twice that Charles Hieronymus Farina acts in his own name and in the name of Charles Gugielmi  (a anche del signor Carlo Guglielmi nome) but Feminis is at no point mentioned.
It is a fact that when Feminis made a donation to the school of Santa Maria Maggiore, Charles Hieronymus Farina and Chales Gugliemi did represent him. This however doesn’t mean that his name is to be associated to all donations featuring the names of these two men.
This is how the donation to the school is formulated:

„Per Tennore della presente procuram, Jo sotto scrito Costituisco a mio nome li SS. Carlo Guiglielmi e Carlo Gerol. Farina di dimandare et essigere da SS. Gio Batt. Barbieri e compagnie di Bruxelles pag’to della due centi copie prestatoli contra il di luoro biglieto ossia conffeso del 10 8bre 1731 con obligo alli miei sud’e due constituent procurano di rimpiazarle oue gli parera bene ad interreso e con li mad’e interresi di instituire in St’a Maria una scuola a benefitio de poueri Figlij di dela cura di St’a Maria…“
According to Utescher, the carrying out of this task led to the following entry in the registers of Santa Maria Maggiore:
„Crana, the 08.09.1743.
We the undersigned, Carl Hieronymus Farina and Carl Guglielmi have planned to contribute the sum of 5000 lira which Johann Paul Feminis entrusted us with after his death 26.11.1736. This money was destined to … „
It is thus clearly quoted :“ the money Johann Paul Feminis entrusted us with … „!
It’s only when one considers the position occupied by Charles Hieronymus Farina and Charles Guglielmi in relation to the fund raising project started in Germany and aiming at getting a maximum of Italians to save their home church, is it possible to understand the meaning of this. Because of the content of certain inscriptions to be found on Feminis‘ portraits, Cavalli  associates the reconstruction of the oratorio of Crana to Feminis‘ name and Maurizi uses that information as a source to attribute the 10 000 lira donation to Feminis. How previously noted, however, these paintings don’t have any historic value and can by no means be used as proof.

What is known for a fact, is that Feminis travelled penniless from Mainz to Cologne.
In the registries of the town Mainz, it appears that in 1687, Feminis happened to owe the town quite some tax money which amounted to 2 and 3 florin in the year 1689/90. In the French register one finds that in the year 1689 he owes the sum of 6 florins followed by the remark: „he has withdrawn“. It thus appears that Feminis‘ wealth wasn’t at it’s highest whilst he lived in Mainz.
His children’s baptism registry also points to quite a number of details and in particular to Feminis’ frequent moving. Three different parishes are mentioned:   « St. à Quintin » ,  1690 « Dompfarrei »  1692 « St. Ignatius » en 1689.

Feminis and the 19th century Italian authors

Dr. Karl Kempkes

Feminis and the 19th century Italian authors

Three 19th century Italian authors, Carlo Cavalli, author of the first volume about the history of the Vigezzo Valley, Fr. Scaciga and Giacomo Pollini, refer to Giovanni Paolo Feminis in their books. The following article will dispute the documentary value of their information. All three authors praise Feminis for being the valley’s most generous benefactor and creator of Eau de Cologne. A thorough analysis of their works and biographies, however, proves Jean Marie Farina 1785-1864 (Paris) to have exerted a remarkable influence on the authors. At the time, Farina was a very important figure in his hometown Santa Maria Maggiore as well as throughout the Vigezzo Valley. Because he claimed to be Feminis’ heir in the production of Eau de Cologne, he probably praised and spread the word about Feminis’ good deeds, including Feminis’ alleged donation of 60,000 Lire to the parish church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the construction of the street leading from Domodossola into the Vigezzo Valley and the establishment of a school and community centre. However, the fact that there are no records or documents to confirm these deeds compromises the credibility of the information given by the three authors named above, and confirms the role of Jean Marie Farina as their only possible source. This article also cites John Ruffini and his report about a visit to the Vigezzo Valley as a contemporary witness to the formidable influence of Jean Marie Farina.


Introduction: Jean Marie Farina 1785-1864 (Paris) and his Italian home country.

  1. Dr. Carlo Cavalli: „Cenni Statistico-Storici della Valle Vigezzo“, Torino, 1845.
  2. Fr. Scaciga della Silva: „Vite di Ossolani illustri“, Domodossola, 1847.
  3. Dr. Giacomo Pollini: „Notizie Storiche, Statuti Antichi, Documenti e Antichità Romane di Malesco“, Torino, 1896.
  4. Conclusion

When seeking to prove the historical value of these documents in relation to Feminis, one ought not forget  that Jean Marie Joseph Farina enjoyed vast popularity  and influence in his home town.
As Maurizi reports, the reconstruction of the Vicar Ponti church between 1840 and 1846 led to a general appeal for help. Jean Marie Joseph Farina is said to have come forward and donated the sum of 4000 lira which would explain why he consecrated as saint patron of the rosary chapel.
In the rosary chapel of the church Santa Maria Maggiore, there is a commemorative plaque on which the following has been engraved (English translation): „In memory of Jean Marie Joseph Farina, patron of this chapel, generous benefactor of this church and worthy heir of Johann Paul Feminis, from the thankful  villagers 1846“. The previous information explains that if Jean Marie Joseph Farina enjoyed a good reputation in his home town it’s first and foremost due to his charitable acts. It’s also precisely for that reason that his ideas and opinion was taken into account. In the following text, we shall try to find out whether or not there was an actual relation between Jean Marie Joseph Farina and Feminis the way it has been descibed by the authors in 19th century.

1. Dr. Carlo Cavalli : « Cenni Statistico-Storici della Valle Vigezzo », Torino, 1845

1.) Who was Cavalli?
Maurizi refers to Cavalli in the following terms.
„Franz Anton Cavalli, son of the late Karl Hieronymus Cavalli (1798-1842) was a pastor in Santa Maria. His brother Carl Cavalli (1799-1860) was a famous historian. He obtained his PhD in medical science at Pavia University before opening a practice in his home town. At the same university, he was honoured the title of Professor for his outstanding work in obstetrics. At the University of Turin, he received a PhD in medicine and in philosophy. As a dedicated doctor, he wrote a book in 1835: „The history of an extraordinary illness existing for 28 years“ and „The history of the nervous fever which spread around the region of the Vigezzo valley between 1839 and 1840“ published in june1844 in Turin in the medical science review. His greatest success was the publication in 1845 of a book in three volumes: „Statistic and historic indications relative to the Vigezzo Valley“ which is the first written work giving a detailed account of this region’s history. He got actively envolved in the construction of a road connecting Domodossola to the Vigezzo Valley, he was mayor of Santa Maria Maggiore, of Crana, he was the chairman of the provincial consul in Ossola as well as the parlementary representative for the subalpine region. He was honoured with the cross „Ss. Maurizio e Lazzaro“ and was a member of various italian and international academies.

It thus appears that Carlo Cavalli played a particularly important role in both Santa Maria Maggiore and Crana and that he was greatly appreciated and known.

On analysing his work, we are able to draw the two following remarks:
1. Cavalli didn’t have sufficient time to conduct the proper preliminary historic research which would have been necessary for the writing of his work. The attentive reader will notice that it is merely a  collection of various reports and articles, written by various people.
2.His personality and reputation were sufficient so as to make his work famous. This explains how his books happened to be added to the historic section, without however ever having been checked.

2.) The relationship between Cavalli and Jean Marie Farina from Paris.
In the previous description relating to Cavalli’s life, Maurizzi stresses that the latter was in favour of the construction of a road between Domodossola and the Vigezzo Valley. The building of this road „strada caregiabile“ (which was equipped for vehicles) was of great importance to the people of the region. In those days, only very narrow paths existed and the bridges were so narrow that it was usually almost impossible for two mules to pass one another. This network was a part of everyday life in this area. That explains why some parts of the valley are today still not accessible with a vehicle. Tourists who venture into the valley will most certainly know how to appreciate the romantic character of it all. The means of transport being like in the good old days, on a mule’s back or in the traditional baskets which women carry on their back. For the natives ,however, these means of transport also imply more hard work, earlier ageing and of course a shorter life expectancy.

In the early 19th century, responsible men realised the importance of having a road built through the whole valley. Connecting Domodossola to Locarno and thus improving the economic situation of both the area and of the inhabitants greatly. They put a big effort into carrying out this plan which was to have a great impact on the economy of the region. It appears that during the road works, Dr. Carlo Cavalli is the person who got the most involved. this has been recorded in three books which are to be found in the town archives of Santa Maria Maggiore. Only once the work had started did the real difficulty of the job unveil itself. The idea was to build a road connecting the „dales of the hundred valleys“ (as they called the region) Very steep hills and glens had to be taken into consideration. One of the major problems was of course the financing The local authorities didn’t dispose of the right sum of money, and the region hadn’t planned on supporting the project. However, the men who had decided to carry out the road works didn’t lose hope. They remembered the emigrants who in the past once already had shown their generosity in helping Santa Maria Maggiore. This is how the money was slowly raised. The following commission was founded for this purpose. (see communal archives of Santa Maria Maggiore.)‘La deputazione nominata con Atto Consolare delli 17 octobre 1821 del Consiglio Generale della Valle di Vigezzo porterà il nome di Commissione della Strada nuova da Domo D’Ossola alla Suizzera Cantone Ticino per la Valle di Vigezzo’. This commission was divided into two groups: ‘Questa commissione si divide in due sezioni una permanenta nella Valle e l’altra in Pariggi’. A sort of tandem between „the valley“ and Paris began. What we are solely interested in, is the composition of the commission in Paris.  This is what can be read in the report:  ‘Quella di Pariggi e composta dalli SS. Fratelli Trabuchi di Malesco, Gio Batt. e Gio Maria Zio e Nipote Mellerio, Francesco Mellerio e Gio Margaritis di Craveggia e Gio Maria Farina di Santa Maria Maggiore’.
When the members residing in Paris were visiting their home town, they would seat at the Italian commission as illustrates the following excerpt: ‘Quall’ora alcuno de membri della commissione di Pariggi si ripatriasse formera parta della commissione permanente’.
The commissions‘ aim was to gather as many souscriptions and donations  as possible, so as to secure the financing of this infrastucture. ‘L’ufficio della commissione si è collocare sottoscrizione e oblazioni per formare il fondo…’.

Jean Marie Joseph Farina from Paris had an important role to play: he was placed at the head of the German commission. ‘Il Sig. Gio Maria Farina inparticolare ha inaltre l’incarico per le soscrizioni ed oblazioni nella Germania…’. these are excerpts from ‘Atti diversi della deputazione del Consorzio per la costruzione della Strada Vigezzina’ which are to be found in book 11/II of the communal archives of the town Santa Maria Maggiore. In this volume have also been recorded the donations from Paris. In a short time, 27000 lira had been raised and the project was supported by Paris throughout. Questions and specific requests were mostly sent to the French „delegates“. ‘Raporte dalli deputati della nuova Strada Vigezzina d’Italia alli Sign. Melerio Gio Maria, Fratelli Trabuchi, Farina Gioan. Maria … residenti in Pariggi’.
In 1831, Jean Maria Farina made his way to Santa Maria Maggiore where he immediately took the responsibility as head of the commission. On 20.09.1831, he as well as  signed Guiseppe Anton Borgnis, Cavalli, Peretti and other so called « Condeputati » signed a letter addressed to Sig. Alfrazzi, in relation to the construction of the road. When Jean Maria Farina returned to Paris, the plans of construction took a bad turn and in 1832 dr. Carlo Cavalli, the president of the commission, wrote to Jean Marie Farina so as to ask for his help:
„Regardless of the trouble we had at the start of the construction of the road through the valley, the work is advancing at a steady pace even though a finishing date is not yet foreseeable. There are now only three hundred meters missing from Santa Maria Maggiore to Ossola. We however at present appear to be in a bad phase. Our financing has run out and the region hasn’t yet mentioned it’s wanting to help us. We therefore now put our trust in those who until now have supported this project financially and hope their generosity won’t fail us. We are therefore trying to gather as many donations as possible from individuals like Trabucci, Mellerio and Bonanzi who, in turn, may be able to use their influence so as to enlarge the circle of donators. We appeal to all wealthy inhabitants of the Vigezzo valley, this edifice will be a land mark in the history of the region. Finishing the construction of this road will be a tremendous move in the improving the lives of the inhabitants here. It is now up to you to consider the idea and perhaps carry out a charitable act. If your status allows you to get involved in this project, it would be more than a sheer act of generosity to participate in the construction. And you yourself, as well as, all the people of the region will profit from it. Please allow me to express in advance my sincere gratitude along with the many thanks from the people who will honour your memory.“

The letter from Dr. Cavalli to Jean Maria Farina, Paris:

Al Sig. Gio Maria Farina

Pregiatissimo Signore
Malgrado gli sforzi dei nemici della nostra cara patria la strada vigezzina non solo ebbe principio ma venne con calore proseguita sino quasi a loccare il suo termine, mancano infatti poco piu di trecento metri propinquo senza interruzione da Sanzta Maria Maggiore imo al piano dell’Ossola; ma disgrazialamente all’ascesa dell’ultimo gradino ci vediamo mancate le forze. Il fondo delle comuni trovasi oramai essurito; la Provinci anon ci lascia piu speranza di susidio, non avendo, stando l’attuali sistema, alcuno ameno sopravanzo.
Non ci rimane che la confidenza nella patria carita die dovizioni patrizi Vigezzini, i quali non vorrano certamente permettere che vadi deserta un opera cosi utile, incominciala merce le loro fatte largizioni e proseguita sotto i loro favorevol auspici. In tale persuasiva i sottoscritti osano di caldamente interessare l’esperimentato amor patrio della S.V. perche voglia di concerto con codesti buoni patrizi Trabucchi, Mellerio e Bonzani conquiacussi aprire una nuova e volontana sollecitazione presso i dovizioni Vigezzini chi si trovano in codeste capitale e far si che coi loro filantropia sussidii possi finalmente aprire l’asta dell’ultimo tronco e vedere il suo termino la strada vigezzina, che deve formare etrnamente epoca negli annali del nostro paesi nativo e perpetrare nell cuore riconoscente di tutta gusta popolazione la memoria die generosi di lei promolori.
Voglia importanto la S.V. accogliere favorevolmente la domanda die sottoscritti; appoggiarta coll influente di lei patrocinio e cosi doppiamente meritare dalla cari comune patria. Ne ricevi intanto gli anticipati ingraziamenti e le benedizioni degli abitanti di queste luoghi e l’assicuranza per parte dei sottoscritti con cui hanno l’onore dichiarasi
Di V.S. Pregiatissima
Santa Maria 27 feb. 1832”

For a more profound analysis of the events relating to the construction, it is no doubt of importance to know that Cavalli was on very good terms with Jean Marie Farina from Paris and that they even happened to know one another very well.

3.) What does Cavalli tell us about Jean Marie Farina?
At the end of his 18th chapter, Cavalli wrote: “We will finish this chapter by giving several bibliographical references relating to a wealthy inhabitant of the Vigezzo valley. This person happens to be Johann Paul Féminis. He was born towards the end of the 17th century into a known family which however did not have much money. At a very young age he made his way to Germany where he began earning a living. He worked for quite some time in a haberdashery and wondered from café to café. His talent however pushed him in another direction. While living in Cologne, he created a simply fabulous fragrance. He is supposed to have presented his discovery to the public on 13 January 1727. This perfume was rapidly appreciated by all and called „Miracle water“ from Cologne. It’s with this name that this perfume travelled the world and as it is nowadays still known by all, there is no need to go into more detail. From here on, Cavalli admits that if Feminis managed to create this miracle water, it’s due to the donations and he is said to have introduced  the brand « di Colonia ». Cavalli speaks highly of the donations which Feminis is supposed to have made. He writes: „it obvious that Johann Paul Féminis became rich within in a few years. He nevertheless never forgot where he came from. He generously participated in the reconstruction of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore for which he donated the sum of 60000 lira, he took up the refurbishing of the parish house, the Crana oratorium and he donated 50000 lira for the construction of the school. He had a number of other plans for his home town only he died on the 26th November 1736.

It’s important to point out that this is the first text in which the sum of 60000 lira is mentioned in relation to the town of Santa Maria Maggiore along with the projects which Feminis is supposed to have had ready (interrupted because of his death).
On the whole, Cavalli points out in this conclusion how rich Feminis became thanks to his ‚Aqua Mirabilis‘ and most importantly, he stresses the donations he is supposed to have made to his home country. The author adds: „So as to immortalise his memory, the inhabitants of the Vigezzo valley have hung a number of portraits of the man in the buildings which he contributed to upkeep. Canvases were put up in the church and parish house of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the oratorium of Crana and another in the primary school. This is the inscription which figures under the portrait: Johann Paul Feminis from Crana, tradesman, distiller of the Aqua Mirabilis of Cologne, generous donator in the reconstruction of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, also took part in the restoration of the parish house and the oratorium of Crana. May the man who invested in his home town be blessed and may he rest in peace. All his fellow citizens are grateful to him. He will forever be praised by his people.
Cavalli neither gives any information to the artist, nor to when  the paintings were painted. His comment „ al natural“ means that the painting is real  size and not that the portrait was painted when he was still alive. Moreover, Cavalli pays little interest to when exactly the inhabitants of the Vigezzo valley pay their respects to Feminis, nor does he give any dates as to when the paintings were put up, considering that the one in the oratorum is signed 1833. In addition, Cavalli takes for granted that all the painting trace back to the same artist whose signature appears on the painting hanging in the school, information which however isn’t correct.

Cavalli only pays little attention to these details. He doesn’t seem to be interested in Feminis as a person either and hardly any information is provided as to the time at which he lived. His being mentioned in chapter 18 is somewhat odd and unjustifiable. Why does Cavalli make it a point to relate Feminis’ life in this chapter? In the following, one notices a number of discrepancies in the
In the following you will notice a discrepancy it the time scale featured in the table of content. This tends to prove that Cavalli lacked historical facts regarding Feminis:
Chapters    XIII:     1670 – 1700
XIV:     1700 – 1720
XV:     1720 – 1744
XVI:     1744 – 1760
XVII:     1760 – 1788
XVIII:     1788 – 1790     (Gioanni Paolo Femminis di Crana!)
XIX:     1790 – 1797

The dates mentioned in chapter 18  correspond in fact more to Jean Marie Farina from Paris. The information later quoted plainly refers to this individual. Here is how Cavalli describes the people’s gratitude towards Feminis:
“In memory of Feminis who died a bachelor. Johann Anton Farina from Santa Maria Maggiore took over and the business in nowadays run by Jean Marie Farina. The recipe for this miraculous water was therefore never lost. He not only inherited the know-how, but also the love for his country. He proved to be very generous and met the cost for the construction of a hospital in hometown, destined to the poor.”

The central theme is here revealed to us. The construction of a hospital in Santa Maria Maggiore. Cavalli, who had once been mayor of the town, appeared to have a particular interest in it’s development. He is furthermore a physician and without a doubt one of the most important ones: “ « Presidente della Congregazione di Carita ». In the first half of the 19th century, after having overcome the troubles due to Napoleon, the bishop Nova started a charity campaign in his diocese.

Cavalli got passionately involved it the charity project the same way as he did for the construction of the road between Domoldossola and Locarno. His mandate as mayor of Santa Maria Maggiore was characterised by these projects. These aspects must be taken into consideration when analysing the historic facts which Cavalli relates about Feminis. The following letter is an open correspondence destined to Jean Marie Farina. The final passage points it out clearly:
“May he be blessed by God and all others, may he be happy on earth and in heaven  he who finds a way to help the destitute and the unlucky even when strength departs him. The worthiest accomplishment is the act of charity which is embodied by the Christian love towards the poor and unfortunate. This feeling is however regrettably  dying out for men like Feminis are disappearing. Oh! If our ancestors were to resuscitate they would lament that we live in an unhappier world than their own was: ‘Even when hunger tormented us, when exposed to wars or wild beasts, when oppressed by the government or robbed of our goods, never did we loose our faith in God. We always stayed true to our beliefs, to our God, we always supported our home and nation, we remained loyal to our friends, human towards our enemies, empathetic with the suffering, indifferent to pompous occasions but mostly we always made it a point to be highly considered in the towns we travelled to for work which we didn’t have in our own country of origin.’ Jean Marie Farina from Paris had claimed to be the descendant of Feminis thus possessing the original recipe for “Eau de Cologne”. He praised Feminis, made him out to be a saviour, in the hope that the homage be passed down to him. It’s under this light that the praise given from Cavalli to Feminis is to be understood. It is of little interest to find out whether the 60 000 lira donated to the church Santa Maria Maggiore was a coincidence or if it was the result of an order.  The documents testifying to this donation are nowhere to be found or non existent.  Feminis’ construction project of a path between Crana and Santa Maria Maggiore lined with columns may have led Cavalli to write this praising text. What’s more, the idea of building a road of about one kilometer long between the two towns boarded with columns does appear to be somewhat ridiculous and exaggerated. The locals tend to smile at this project when questioned about it. It is difficult to understand how someone like Cavalli, who mostly supports the constructions of useful roads could have been in favour of this project.
In short, it is important to point out that the allegations made by Cavalli on behalf of Feminis are, historically speaking, to be considered with precaution. Moreover, this information is a part of the Cavalli’s complete work and could, for this reason, lead to wrong conclusions.

2. Fr. Scaciga: ‘Vite di Osssolani illustri’ dell‘ Avvocato Fr. Scaciga della Silva con un quarto storico delle Eresie.’ Domodossola 1847.

1.) Sacaciga’s comment.
In his preface to the reader, Scaciga note: „My book throws a light on the lives of some men who were characterised by their wisdom and kindness. Had I whilst writing, glanced at Plutarque’s book, I would have soon noticed that the pompous title of „famous men“ he awards to leaders or philosophers of the antique couldn’t be applied to the men I mention in my book. But at a time like this one when titles are handed out lightly, no one will blame me for it. The public must however be indulgent on my behalf regarding the expressions I have used and whilst reading will keep in mind that I write in the name of my people. This anthology is a  homage to nation. It is less of a scientific study and more of a personal one. This is in fact easily noticeable in the preface to the chapter on Feminis. This is what he writes: „The story I am about to tell is no other than that of the Aqua Mirabilis (miracle water). Therefore the reader will forgive my enthusiasm when telling this part of the history. I dedicate this page not to writing , science or philosophy. My interest is much more devoted to this  sweet smelling „water“ which so many young people appreciated.“

2.) What does Scaciga tell us about Feminis?
After the previously mentioned comments, Scaciga continues as follows: „Johann Paul Feminis was born  at the end of the XVII century in the Vigezzio valley in Crana, a village attached to Santa Maria Maggiore. When he was a young man, he travelled to Cologne where he opened a haberdashery. A few years later he had a stroke of luck and the alcohol based perfume he invented and which became famous world wide, is today still known under the name of: Acqua di Colonia“. According to Scaciga, the elaboration of this perfume is a sheer coincidence. Cavalli on the other hand supports the it’s his hard work in combination with his exceptional gift which enables Feminis to create this perfume.
This is how the former justifies his creation as luck.

„According to a rumour which is of reliable source, this discovery is linked to the English. According to this story, English troops on mission in Goa were exposed to an epidemic of dysentery which took the lives of a number of soldiers. Following this, all medical staff was gathered and asked to find a remedy. They supposedly mixed different essences together and treating their patients with it. The sick are said to have made a quick recovery after it. One of the officers happened to be in Cologne, and on encountering Feminis revealed to him the formula of this „Aqua Mirabilis“ thus making him a successful man.“

This is the first time ever the recipe has been related to the English. There is no doubt that Jean Marie Farina from Paris is the person responsible for their story, desperate to attribute a certain amount of prestige to his product. Jean Marie Farina, as mentioned further on, is in fact one of Scaciga’s sources. Scaciga decsribes his sources as reliable ones. He however introduces a nuance to his evelations, which to some extent contradict his argumentation: „It has to be said that some who share the secret won’t accept this rumour“.  They claim that Feminis is the  creator of this product and that he settled in Cologne on 13 January 1727, where he started up his business.“

Scaciga is attentive to the  accomplishment of the individuals for their country. This author who just like Cavalli is in favours of the construction of a road between Domodossla and Locarno, is proud to be a Vigezziner. That is the reason why he makes it a point to relate the accomplishments of his compatriots in a book which is dedicated to them. He continues: “In the field of chemistry, which was as it’s beginnings, this product was considered fabulous. The sent was described as being soft and bewildering and it was said to be efficient against a number of complaints. In less than ten years, Feminis had made a fortune. However this success didn’t make him forget his origins. So as to support his home town he repeatedly provided the poor with financial support. A number of thumbs are witnesses of such generosity; the same way a number of monument have  been dedicated to these benefactors so the financial support also went toward the construction of the road from Domodossala to Malesco which passes through Santa Maria Maggiore.
Sacaiga pay homage to a number of people, and to Feminis in particular. Indeed, Feminis invested the sum of 60000 lira  towards the reconstruction of the church in  Santa Maria Maggiore, the parish house, the oratorio, the refurbishing of a school and the roadwork between Santa Maria Maggiore and Crana. „
Scaciga is the second author to mention Feminis but he clearly states that his information is based on what Cavalli write whom he gives as a source. This is how the non scientific allegations made by Cavalli on behalf of Feminis are perpetrated in literature. The following author therefore has the opportunity to quote both Cavalli and Scaciga! Scaciga who seems to be highly interested in Feminis expresses his regret as follows: „fate made this man a wealthy one, however he was only able to enjoy his achievements for several years as death struck him quite rapidly. He died 26 November 1736 in Cologne.“
After that, Scaciga turns away from the theme of Feminis. He tries to give life to this benefactor thanks to the portraits given of him. „The people pay him thanks and therefore his portrait is to be seen in four different places. The inhabitants of the Vigezzigo valley can’t but read the generosity of this man in all his facial features. Both older and younger generations gaze at them with a look of recognition. What a virtuous man!!!“
Scaaciga himself incerrted three question marks. A couple of years after his death, the sheer mentioning of the man would have caused a very different reaction. His memory would have been all the more present. In the town registers of Santa Maria Maggiore, there is a list of the donations for the needy. (vergl. ‘Nota del Speso per il Ven. Ospidale di Santa Maria Maggiore’ im Gemeindearchiv) here are some of the names:

‘1728 dato per vestire un figlio…12.–.–
1734 dato a Giacomo Ant. Feminis per sepelire un suo figlio…7.–.–
1735 pagato a Giacomo Antonio Feminis…6.–.–
1736 pagato a Giacomo Antonio Feminis…10.–.–
1736 per fatto sepellire un poveretto morto…4.16.–
1742 a Giacomo Ant. Feminis…8.–.–
1742 a Maria Feminis…5.–.–
1746 alla moglie di Giacomo Ant.Feminis…6.–.–
1747 a Giacomo Antonio Feminis…4.–.–
1749 a Maria Feminis…7.–.–
1749 pagato a Maria Elisabetta Feminis…5.–.–
1759 pagato a Carlo Gioseppe Feminis…8.–.–
1761 pagato a Gioseppe Maria Feminis…7.–.–
1761 pagato a Francesco Maria Feminis…8.10.–” and so on

A the time, even Johann Maria Farina from Cologne was aware of the situation in which Feminis‘ parents were in. In fact, there exists a letter dating back to 7 March 1739 written by Feminis and addressed to Barbieri in Brussels which proves it. Here is what it says: „ The trouble to which my brother and Guilemi went to so as to gather money for their parents and for the church  was all in vain“. (‘La grande pena che si a dato mio frattelo et il Guilelmi pensando di tirare qualche cosa per li suoi parenti e poi per la nostra chiesa sono state tute invane…’)
Both Scaciga and Cavalli find an explaination for this: „The ceator died, but the secret outlived him. It’s Johann Anton Farina who is said to have inherited the recipe and then transmited it to Johann Maria Farina, name still known nowadays.“

Scaciga and Jean Marie Farina from Paris
This is how the story told by Scaciga about Feminis ends but he continued the story relating to the „Aqua di Colonia“ and that is when it is possible to unveil the origines of the sources. As some exerpts are very revealing it seems appropriate to quote them:
„If the success of a product can be mesured at the number of imitations there are of it, only few to have achieved the level of „Aqua di Colonia „ from Feminis. Jean Marie Farina born in Santa Maria Maggiore and who later took up the French nationality was very successful with the French, English German and Prussian royalty. He became the official deliverer for these different courts and was granted the right to wear the crest when on duty. The parisian commission for remedies awarded him 18 August 1810 a special approbation and he recieved flattering recognition from Prerey, Beyeux, Bertholet, Lefaivre, Broussais, Pelletan, Distel and Capuron, highly recognized medical, surgical and chemical professors. All this is of course a hommage to the verues of this „water“.
Even if Farina could boast about having a secret, he had to lead a hard battle against the imitations.
Other products were advertised for and others were called Acqua di Colonia. It was however time for Paris to realise that no other could match Farina. That’s why this perfume was largly used by both women and men when having a bath. It was used to treat migranes, earache, tookache, cramp and stomach complaints. In short, it was used a all times. This meant that the producer found if hard to keep up with the rising demands.
The name Acqua di Colognia  was soon not enough to distinguish itself from the other products on the market. The parisians were fond of the Acqua di Colonia by Giovanni Paolo Feminis which explained why so many others try to imitate it. Farina took all these people to court and won each time. The first court order dates back to 24 August 1814 against a so-called Senaux Cantio. There were a number of law suits and I hope that the reader isn’t disappointed that I shouldn’t state the different reasons for a case. I just want to stress once again the multitude of imitations thus ponting out to the popularity of the product.“

At the end of this study, Scaciga dwells more specifically on the imitations. This dreaches the bounderies of our research and are therefore none of our interest because as explained above, the details can’t but come from Jean Marie Farina from Paris.

3. Dottore Giacomo Pollini
Notizie Storiche, Statuti Antichi, Documenti e Antichita Romane di Malesco. Torino 1896.

Pollini is an author who devoted his work to the history of his own area of origin, Malesco, situated in the Vizzego valley. What’s striking is that he doesn’t dedicate this chapter to Feminis. On a number of accounts, he explains how Jean Maria Farina from Paris influenced the historical Italian stories and in particular those relative to Feminis. Amongst others, Pollini relates how a number of inhabitants from the Vizzego valley expatriated to France, Switzerland, Austria or Germany. This is how he continues:
„Mostly, these are people from Toceno, Santa Maria Maggiore and Crana who slowly climbed the social ladder. One of the most famous ones was a so called Johann Paul Feminis born in Crana and died in 1736, known as the creator of Acqua di Colonia. During the winter months he was known in Cologne for his chimney sweeping services; and the rest of the year he ran a haberdashery. His life went on like this until the day he met he met an English solider returning from the Indies and who gave him the secret recipe of the miracle water.  This water which enchanted all was very successful and is nowadays still known as the  Acqua mirabile di Colonia by Johann Maria Farina who is from Santa Maria Maggiore in the Vigezzo valley, a descendant of Feminis.“

It is interesting to point out that the sergeant described by Scaciga turns into a plain soldier under the orders of another. It is possible that this change should have occurred so as to make the story more plausible as it seems rather improbable that a sergeant would have tried to get in contact with a common merchant. Interestingly enough, Pollini quotes his sources in his footnotes. It reads: 2 It’s one of Farina’s friends who told me this story. This friend is Gio Francesco Nino de Druogno, deceased in 1877 at the age of 88.“

In this context, one mustn’t omit to quote another extract of Pollini’s, indicating how Jean Marie Farina was perceived by his contemporaries. Here is the relevant passage: „ A number of inhabitants of the Vigezzo valley managed to save up important sums of money and some even had a couple of millions set aside which they used for themselves and family in their home villages. The investments were mostly repairs or extensions. The most striking investments are to be seen between Masera and Trontano where luxurious villas were built.

Near Masera, two villas are particularly worth mentioning. One belonged to Johann Maria Farina, the creator of Eau de Cologne whose success can be measured at his impressing villa; the other belonged to a so called M. Cav. Felice Mellerio de Craveggia who also had himself an impressing villa built.


It is thus possible to say that the facts stated by these three 19th century writers have without a doubt been influenced by Jean Marie Farina from Paris. In John Ruffini’s book „Carlino and other stories“, the reader discovers the actual influence which Jean Marie Farina (Paris) had on the people of the Vigezzo valley. In Jean Marie Farina’s lifetime, Ruffini paid him a visit in person in the Vigezzo Valley where he met the famous man who gave him a warm welcome.   In his book, Ruffini describes in the first place his general impression on discovering the valley and it’s only afterwards that he mentions Jean Marie Farina. On arriving in Domodossola, Ruffini asked his host about finding a guide to take him round the valley. It’s M. Battistino’s name which was given to him. A man working for Jean Marie Farina and who soon took him to Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s during their walk that Ruffini discovered Jean Marie Farina’s real image. Hardly had they entered into the valley  when the Farina mansion imposed itself on them.

„I was struck by the appearance of a very handsome country-house, which stood on a lofty eminence facing us, surrounded by noble terraced gardens. The mansion commanded the same extensive views of the beautiful valley that strike the traveller so forcibly from the bridge of Crevola. I pointed out this dwelling to my guide with an inquiring look. „Palazzo del Signor Padrone“, was his answer. „Your padrone then is rich?“ „Hu!“ returned Battistino with a lengthened exclamation, waving his hand expressively up and down. „Tanto ricco! – ricchissimo! Tanto seior!“ And this was followed by a long and eloquent eulogium, or history, unfortunately lost upon me, with the exception of the words „Generoso, generosissimo – da Paris.“

As the two men approached Santa Maria Maggiore, the church bell started to ring, which gave Battistino yet another opportunity to praise his master:

„As we advanced, the sound of a fine-toned church-bell came wafted on the air. It sounded like a rejoicing peal. Battistino became excited, and contrived to make me understand that the bell, the great bell, was a gift from his padrone to the church.”

After having reached  Santa Maria Maggiore, the two men went to the church. Here again Jean Marie Farina’s name is mentioned in Ruffini’s text, however this time, it’s the meaning he has for the people which is stressed.

„I was going to propose that we should leave the church, when a large crowd entering, relieved me from the attention of the congregation, and I remained a forgotten observer. The new-comers were two young couples, surrounded by their respective friends, coming to the altar to receive the nuptial benediction. „Pepine and Ghita, Giovanni and Maria!, said my guide in an undertone, as he pointed out the couples, and he went on to make me understand that his pardon had given the dot (marriage-portion). His enthusiasm now seemed to lose all power of expression in words, and to concentrate itself in his two bright eyes, while I thought to myself: „This pardon of him must be a rare character – a rich and liberal man dispensing his wealth in shedding happiness among the simple population of this retired valley.“

When leaving the church, Ruffini observed the respect which the inhabitants showed towards Farina: “At hte church door, a crowd gather around Battistino’s master and other individuals shared their gratitude with him. This fatherly man received these complements with a smile before leaving the groupe.

Ruffini met Jean Marie Farina in front of the church who  kindly invited him to his home. Together they leave Santa Maria Maggiore by car. On their way, Battistini points out a road from Santa Maria Maggiore to Domodossola and as Ruffini doesn’t appear to understand straight away Jean Marie Farina gives a rapid explanation: “ Battistino is trying to tell you that I had that road built between the two towns. A couple of years ago, there was nothing but a muddy path in it’’ stead. As I live in the region, I was one of the most interested.”

When reading these few extracts of Ruffini’s book, it seems clear that Jean Marie Farina was considered to be an exceptional  man, known and admired by the villagers as well as by the whole Vigezzo valley. Considering his reputation, it seems normal that his opinion should have been taken into account.

For this purpose, it is impossible to analyse the 19th century writers’ text without taking these fact into consideration, that being jean Marie Farina’s influence on the authors of the time. It’s also in that respect that the information as to Feminis has to be considered.

Analysis of the historical validity concerning the alledged ‘Feminis portraits’

Dr. Karl Kempkes

Verification and analysis of the historical validity concerning the alledged ‘Feminis portraits’

The original painting does not portray Paolo Feminis, but rather Monsieur Dinocheau, a member of the family who founded the Church of Saint Roch in the Rue Saint Honoré, Paris. In the following analysis, the alleged original portrait will minutely  be compared to the three copies that were made of it and all the evidence will amount to proving it a fake.

Introductory remark:
In the following,

the portrait hanging in the vestry of the     the portrait hanging  in the oratorium of church Santa Maria Maggiore is referreD Crana, which is dated 1833, as P3, and
zo as P1

the portrait hanging in the school of the         the portrait in the school in
town Crana,( the former town hall), as P2,         Santa Maria Maggiore as P4.

Santa Maria Maggiore, Valle Vigezzo, Verbania, Italy

The existence of several copies of the alleged original portrait of Feminins ( hanging in the vestry of the parish church of Santa Maria Maggiore) facilitates its historical appreciation  considerably. A comparison of the individual portraits immediately prompts closer examination of the obvious compositional differences. It isn’t so much the person portrayed who is at the centre of this analysis, but rather the added inscriptions and the new motifs. The latter elements are the ones which when studying the paintings invariably stand out, thus attracting our attention to the lower part of the composition. At the centre of the focus are the table on the one hand and the angled pillar in the corner of room in the background on the other.

Taking these four factors into consideration, the following conclusions can be drawn upon comparison of the individual portraits:

  1. When contemplating the paintings, it is striking to see  that the featuring inscription all differ from one another. Only P2 has a harmonious composition, contrary to P1 where the inscription plainly appears to have been added and P3 where there is no apparent coherence in the canvas.
  2. The rectangular shaped table surface in P1 fills up the entire foreground, whereas this surface has in P3 barely been represented.
  3. An examination of the religious motifs shows that two entirely different scenes have been represented in P1 and P3. P1 features the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and P3 shows Saint Susan kneeling.
  4. In P1 and P3, the background has been represented in a similar fashion, only, in P3 there is a pillar in the corner of  the room which seems to blend in perfectly with the representation of Saint Susan.

These four discrepancies, which, stand out when scanning the painting on a purely superficial level, will be the starting point for the analysis in the following sections.

Ad 1. The inscriptions on the portraits

a) The comparison of the inscriptions:
If one assumes that the portraits and inscriptions where a unity completed at the same time, that P1 is the original portrait, and the others mere copies, then one has to provide a reason for why the inscriptions appearing on the individual portraits so strongly differs from one another. An explanation for this can easily be given in P2, as the composition isn’t unbalanced, even though it has undergone quite some change. How, though, should the dilettante and artificial way in which the portrait’s inscription has been painted in, be explained? Judging from the overall composition of P3, P1 served as the immediate original for this copy. If, however, the inscriptions now featuring on the painting P1 (believed to be the original according to the date 1833) had already existed at the time the copy was made, then it is impossible to explain why the copyist, who meticulously reproduced the subject of the portrait, introduced such entirely different inscriptions. The thought that the copyist didn’t attach any importance to the inscription and that the text may have only been added later, is absolutely implausible, and would, in addition,  disrupt the entire above-mentioned unity of the portrait and the portrait’s inscription. The fact that the inscriptions present in P1 and P3 so very much diverge from one another make it impossible to assume that the two portraits are a chronological  unit. This assumption was therefore wrong.
An analysis of the content of these inscriptions leads to similar conclusions.

b) The different inscriptions

To enable a better comparison of the differences which occur in the texts,  the most important terms have been singled out and ordered into the following table:

B1 B2 B3
Paolo Gio Palo Gio Paolo
Femminis Feminis Feminis
da Crana di Crana di Crana
mercante mercante mercante
e fabbricatore distillatore distillre
d’acqua d’acqua d’aqua
mirabile ammirabile ammirabile
in Colonia in Colonia in Colonia
benfattore prinle prile
principale benefattore benre
della Vda chiesa della chiesa dell chiesa
parrocchiale parrocchiale pa
di Sta Maria di Sta Maria di Sta M
Maggiore Maggiore Mag
del Vdo oratorio e del proprio del oratorio
dell oratorio
e casa comunale e casa del comune a casa comona
di Crana di Crana di Crana 1833

Noteworthy first of all, is the way in which the name „Feminis“ has been spelt in B1 where it takes a double „m“ . During Feminis‘ lifetime, his name was written with a single „m“ in official documents, private correspondence and other records. Moreover, Feminis himself signed  his name with one „m“ when signing to the donation he made to the benefit of the school in Santa Maria Maggiore. Had this inscription indeed been added during his lifetime, and with his knowledge, then both he and the author of the inscription would certainly have attached particular importance to the correct spelling of his name.  In the 19th century, more examples of the spelling with double „m“ can be found. In a contract between family members, which Jean Marie Farina of Paris signed with his father and brothers on September 9th, 1818, the name Feminis (spelt with a  double „m“) appears twice. Moreover, in keeping with P1‘s inscription, „Paolo“ is written and not „Gio Paolo“,. The double „m“ spelling can also be found on a plaque that was mounted in the Rosary chapel of the parish church in Santa Maria Maggiore in 1846 in memory of the very same Jean Marie Farina. A fourth example is provided by the inscription on the (according to legend) birthplace of Feminis. There seems to be a certain local and temporary unity when it comes to this spelling! Furthermore, when comparing the portraits‘ inscriptions, it is particularly interesting to note that P3 reveals to be as an imitation of P2 and not P1. The elements of proof are the following words: Gio Paolo, Feminis, distillatore, ammirabile. In addition to this, the different syntactical construction of the sentence can be noted: the inversion of principale and befattore. Whether P2 is an imitation of P3 or vice versa is here not as crucial as the fact that discrepancies also turn up between them, which make the chronological unity of the portrait and the inscription hard to believe. Moreover, both the style of the letters and the overall composition of the inscription in P2 suggest a later date than the portrait itself does.

c) The textual content of the portraits‘

In addition to these external characteristics of the various inscriptions we can now consider the content of all three inscriptions.

P1 as well as P2 and P3 refer to Feminis’ donation to the parish church, the Oratorio and the parish town hall. Feminis is referred to as „benefattore principale“ of the church in Santa Maria Maggiore. This claim, however, does not reflect the truth, as has also been stated elsewhere (see: „Feminis’s Wealth“—cf. p. 136). When Feminis was alive, his financial situation would have been known in Santa Maria Maggiore, making it perfectly impossible for such a thing to be written. The same goes for the donation to the Oratorio and parish hall in Crana.
Something else seems to go against the inscriptions themselves: in all three there seems to be a disturbing insistence concerning the donations which Feminis is supposed to have made. In contrast, the inscription featuring on the painting hanging in the school of Santa Maria Maggiore is much more discreet. It reads: « Gio Paolo Feminis, benefattore della scuola di Santa Maria Maggiore ».

In short, this examination shows that it is by no means possible to assert that the inscriptions which are to be found on the portraits are really contemporary to Feminis. These documents would previously have to be documented which would be in vain.

When comparing P1 and P3, it is plain to see that the two artists did not both have quite the same talent. However, even though the artist of P3 wasn’t quite as gifted as that of P1, the former composition is, as a whole, much more harmonious. P1 conveys a certain contradiction which in return stresses how artificial the representation of the “Assumption of the Virgen Mary” appears – likely to have been added at a later date.

Ad 2. The foreground in P1 and P3

A rectangular slab quite conspicuously fills up the entire foreground in P1. Whereas in P3, the portrait has meticulously been copied, the foreground has however not. The table is scarcely  apparent, which is more agreeable for the whole composition.
From this results the discrepancy that P3‘s copyist rendered the foreground more artistically than in the original, P1, while on the other hand, the same copyist treated the inscription in such a negligent manner This blatant discrepancy again shows an inconsistency and needs an explanation.

The copyist, as can be seen in the rendering of the person portrayed, did not possess the  refined technique which the painter of P1 did, this fact thus makes it hard to understand how it could then have been possible for him to improve the whole composition on the one hand and to make a mess of the inscriptions on the other. The explanation is that the original portrait used happened to look different. In other words: P1 cannot, with it’s current composition, be the „original portrait

This assumption inevitably requires a more accurate examination of this so-called „original.“
Just as a critical consideration of the portraits‘ inscriptions makes it impossible for the text in P1 to be contemporary to the portrait itself, a comparison of the foreground in P1 and in P3 suggests that the table slab, along with the inscription in P1 cannot be „original either.“

When looking at  a good picture of the so-called original painting (it isn’t even necessary to look at the painting itself) one can clearly see fine cracks in the varnish that cover the portrait. These cracks are however nowhere to be seen on the table or the inscriptions.

The edge of the right sleeve of the robe quite noticeably emerges from the area of cracked varnish, and it is precisely this small black triangle which completely and adequately suggests that the bottom part of this painting has been redesigned.
At this point, the question still remains whether we’re just dealing with a restoration or whether we’re dealing with a remodelling, similar to Lothar Malskat‘s „restoration“ of the „gothic Truthahn-Friezes“ in the Schleswiger Cathedral.


This problem can be solved thanks to the original painting hanging in Santa Maria Maggiore.

On a surface level, it can be noted that the lower half of the canvas has been re-stretched, and in so doing, the span of the canvas has been enlarged. It appears that the added part is approximately the size of the missing part in P3. Prior to this enlargement, the portrait’s inscription, which extends to the bottom-most edge of the present painting, cannot have been existent. When, however, was this enlargement carried out?
As shown above, the unnatural and clumsy addition of the inscriptions betrays the fact that there could not have been any in the painting used as example for P3.
Likewise, a comparison of the texts demonstrated that the text in P3 alludes to P2 and not to P1.
Taking all this into consideration, we can now approach the composition of the foreground and the respective table slab in such a way as to argue that the enlargement of P1 could only occurred after the completion of P3.
The period of time in which P3 was completed also remains to be determined, and this is, in part, due to the fact that the inscription referring to the year 1833 can no longer be trusted.
Under the given circumstances, the inscription can no longer be considered as being  contemporary to the painting, as it appears to have been added at a later moment in time.
In addition to these surface-level, easily detected peculiarities in B1, the exact line of the painting’s lower extension can be seen in the „original.“

This extension was not directly drawn onto the canvas, but rather on paper, which was then pasted to the bottom part of the canvas. The upper edge can be seen on the X-ray photograph.

An X-ray of this portion of the canvas shows that P1 had the same foreground composition as B3 (excluding the inscription)  now has.
The rounded off  table slab as well as the cover of the book, upon which the portrayed person has placed his right hand, can clearly be identified. This explicitly proves that the inscription in P1, that is, the „original portrait“, cannot be acknowledged as contemporary to the portrait itself, but rather has to be attributed to a later period of  time, and indeed a time after the completion of the copy P3. Due to this, the inscription therefore can’t be regarded as a „historical document.

Ad 3. The background in the paintings

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary .

The background in P1 depicts the „heavenly vision“ of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a portrayal that was in all likelihood strongly inspired by the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which can be seen in the centre of the apse in the parish church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Both these representations being of a similar style, lead us to believe that the canvas was very probably painted by G. Borgnis, the same artist who was hired for the inside of the church.
The conclusion is obvious to those judging the Feminis portrait who take it for granted that the painting along with the inscriptions portrait’s inscription Feminis in the role of the principal benefactor of this church.

However, as soon as one believes the inscriptions not to be from the same time, such a assumption is hard to follow.

It’s quite difficult, given the large number of representations of the Assumption scene, to pin point the painting used as a model for the depiction of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in P1.  Many of these paintings share some elements of composition, and one has to bear in mind that Borgnis himself  heavily based many of his other works on originals from Venice, Bologna or Rome.
However, if one accepts the idea that the church of Santa Maria Maggiore was used as the example for the background in the painting, then, it couldn’t have been completed before 1743, as the church was decorated that very year. What’s more, it still hasn’t been clarified whether Borgnis copied his own work here or if another copyist painted the representation.
On comparing both representations, one notices that the faces of the characters in P1 were rendered in a less detailed way than the ones in church.

A  fundamental difference is the representation of the neckline of Mary’s dress, which  neither corresponds to Borgnis’s style nor to his time and suggests an earlier period.
The parallel is to be found in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is in the rosary chapel which Jean Marie Farina, the Parisian, donated 4000 Lira to, for decoration purposes (between 1840 and 1846), thus making him the patron of the chapel.

a) Kneeling Saint Susan

Rather surprising, is the fact that P3, allegedly a copy of P1, doesn’t reproduce the motif of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the back-ground, or any other motif for the matter which could relate to the donations Feminis is supposed to have made. Instead of that, the background of P3 represents Saint Suzanne on her knees, imploring God for help. How come the same motif wasn’t reproduced? Was nobody concerned about this in Crana? One could imagine that the copyist may have judged the ‚Assumption of the Virgin Mary‘ a too hard a challenge to reproduce and  purposefully decided to pick any other scene to fill in the background with. Even if it were possible to support this theory, the explanation as to the choice of this precise scene would remain unsolved. It would, without a doubt have been possible to find a more appropriate scene in Santa Maria Maggiore or in the direct surrounding area. When studying the centre upper part of the background in P3, one can undoubtedly make out a cloud. Was the Assumption here too to represented?
It thus appears to be of importance to analyse the surroundings of the represented motif. When contemplating both P1 and P3, it is striking to see that a wall corner appears in both. This detail can’t be ignored and must be considered in the analysis.

Ad.4 The wall corner in the background

When contemplating P1, the vertical wall corner appears to be a disturbing element. The represented Assumption and the dark shadow thrown by the wall appear quite incongruous. None of G. Borgnis‘ previous works have such a break it their composition. Why has this wall corner found it‘s way into this painting? It is in keeping with the character‘s serious and threatening stare , however it clashes with the representation of the Assumption. Is this wall simply part of the background in which the character was painted, or is it a clear reference to the church he is supposed to have sponsored? Regardless of the angle under which it is analysed, this corner can, by no means, be seen as an asset, and the cloud at the top of the picture simply appears clumsy. There is nothing artistic in either of these. In the P3 even though the cloud looks slightly out of place, the wall isn’t in the least disturbing. The stern expression on the character’s face and the sharp corner casting it’s dark shadow onto Suzanne looking up to the heavens doesn’t shock in any way and appears  harmonious.
When comparing P1 and P3, it appears that the artist of P3 wasn’t quite as talented as the artist of P1. However, P3 appears to be more balanced that P1. The composition of P1 thus reveals a slight contradiction. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary appears some what artificial and is likely to have been a later addition.
If both the background and the inscriptions are later additions to the painting, one is tempted to question the authenticity of the character depicted, along with the painting’s source.
So as to understand the link between this painting and the Feminis Eau de Cologne, it is not necessary to know the precise history of this painting.
It is enough to know that the inscriptions which appear on P1 have been added at a later date, the verifications having been performed by X-ray.
The alterations are visible at first glance.  The lower part of the painting doesn’t show any cracks since the changes occurred a century later.

This compact scientific analysis leads to the following conclusions:

1) The painting which was long though to be that of Feminis, turns out to plainly to be a fake.
2) There is no existing evidence that the character in P1 depicts  Feminis.
3) It’s a mistake to think that Giuseppe Borgnis is the artist of this painting.
4) The modifications were added in the 19th century.
5) Where do the pictures of Feminis come from?

It is thus blatant that these painting are false ones. Neither the character, nor the artist, nor even the elements of the background are reliable elements.

As for the origins of these paintings, it is possible to say that they were related to Feminis from the time the inscriptions were added. These are much more recent than the paintings themselves and this can be seen by the cracks which appear in the upper part (the older part).
Last but not least, the letters which appear on the painting are anachronical. This, once again, points to a certain incompatibility
When one considers all the facts and the period of time they took place in, there seems to only be one person who could possibly be responsible for all this: Jean Marie Farina from Paris.

When one pays a visit to the parisian Farina, one discovers several important pieces of information as to the understanding of P3. This is where we find an explanation as to the represented motif of Saint Susan which initially appeared quite incongruous with the rest of the painting.

In the street where Jean Marie Farina resided, rue Saint Honoré, there is a church, Saint Roch, which is of particular interest to us.

In 1521, the tradesman Jean Dinocheau had a chapel built on the outskirts of Paris, which he dedicated to Saint Susanna. In 1577, his nephew Etienne Dinocheau had it extended into a larger church and chose Saint Roch to be the saint patron. In 1629, it became the parish church and it thereafter underwent further work between 1653 and 1740. The church is organised as a series of chapels in succession. One of them is dedicated to Saint Susanna in memory of the church which used to stand in its place. In accordance, there is a mural painting above the alter, showing Saint Susanna fleeing her aggressors, and looking up to the heavens, beckoning God to help her.

Saint-Roch church, Paris

During the French Revolution, the church was at the heart of the action. In the same street, a cloister was used for meetings held by revolutionary groups such as the Feuillants or the Jacobeans. A number of shootings took place in the church proximity which accounts for the bullet wholes in the walls still visible today.
After the revolution, most of the damaged was seen to. The inside of the church was also restored, including Susanne’s chapel. The artist Norblin is the one who first drafted and then painted the canvas dedicated to Saint Susanne. This piece of art measures 3.20 meters in width  on 3.65 meters height and is exposed in the exact same place as the original.

When contemplating this painting, which happens to be an exact copy of the original, it is interesting to note the wall which can be seen to the left of the painting. It is without a doubt the corner which appears in P3. This would therefore account for the wall present in both P1 and P3.

Saint Roch, Paris

P3 The wall angle and the representation of Saint Susanne

The church Saint Roch was without a doubt restored after the agitated period of the Revolution and that P1 was used as a model for P3 which was to replace the original canvas in the chapel dedicated to Saint Susanne. These paintings were however never used and it was the Parisian Jean Marie Farina who got a hold of them. He had them restored so as to suite his fancy, having inscriptions added to them and that’s how a painting featuring Monsieur Dinocheau, the church’s founder and benefactor,  was used to give Feminis a face.

Two paintings weren’t however sufficient for the Parisian Farina to launch a proper advertisement campaign. For this reason, he had the painting remade without, however, any apparent motif. Only the inscriptions were inserted to this painting which happens to be no other than P2. As to P1 and P3, they were exposed it Feminis‘ alleged country of origin.

Advertisment published by Jean Maria Farina, Paris,  in 1818, featuring the alleged portrait of Feminis, taken from P2.