Ettore Roesler Franz, painter and watercolorist, son of Luigi and Teresa Biondi, was born in Rome on May 11, 1845 and here died on March 26, 1907.

Founder and President of the Society of Watercolor Artists in Rome, he is among the Italian painters of the nineteenth century who most exposed and have established himselves in Italy and abroad. He can be considered as one of the most valuable examples of the late nineteenth century of Realism genre and among the best Italian watercolourists ever.

Master of the watercolor technique (paper, brushes, colors and its collector, which he personally selected with meticulous care, came all from England) because it was considered the best way to reproduce the countryside scenes and especially the transparency of the heavens and water, he was a cosmopolitan artist with European mentality. He saw far and wanted to give a proof of his time, exploring the cities that disappeared or were reborn. In that sense, he can be considered as a forerunner of modern environmentalists as well.

Its Roman family of German origin had founded the famous Hotel d’Allemagne close to the Spanish Steps, which hosted personalities like Goethe, Stendhal, Wagner, Luciano Bonaparte, de Lesseps, Thackeray and Winckelmann, and was mentioned in a sonnet by Giuseppe Gioachino Belli.

Ettore Roesler Franz, polyglot (he spoke fluently French, English and German), Knight of the Crown of Italy and commander, in his life has got the Honorary Citizenship of Tivoli. But only recently he has been called “the painter of landscape and memory”, being the artist who most contributed to the image of Rome and Lazio in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
After his studies at the Christian Schools of Trinità dei Monti, Ettore attended the Academy of St. Luke in Rome with his close friend Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929) who dedicated to him a pastel portrait when Ettore was 18 years old. Ferrari is known for the monument to Giordano Bruno in Campo de’ Fiori in Rome and later to be became deputy in the Italian Parliament and Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy.

Another good friendship was with Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) who marked his international debut right with an oil portrait of Ettore in Villa d’Este (Tivoli) in 1902, with which he was admitted at the Venice Biennale in 1903.
Since the youthness Ettore had a good connection with the Anglo-Saxon environments. In fact, he began his activity working at the British Consulate, where he met the consul Joseph Severn (1793-1879), who was a good watercolorist and a close friend of John Keats. When Severn died, Ettore and his brother Alessandro, at that time consul of England in Rome, contributed – along with other English intellectuals – to the erection of his funerary plate in the Non-Catholic Cemetery at the Pyramid, in Rome. His brother Alessandro, after marrying the English lady Julia Teiser went live in London, helping Ettore to get in into the Commonwealth market.

Among his greatest admirers, Ettore Roesler Franz also had Ferdinand Gregorovius (1821-1891), great German historian and honorary citizen of Rome.
Ettore Roesler Franz was also the first painter to reproduce the Roman Ghetto and, in all the current publications of the Jewish community of Rome, his watercolors are reproduced as a testimony of its links with it.

The work that brought fame to him worldwide is undoubtedly the Vanished Rome, or rather, quoting his own words, “Rome picturesque / Memories of an era that goes”. They are 120 watercolors (each of them measuring around 53 × 75 cm., horizontal or vertical), divided into three series of 40 each. Thanks to this idea it was possible to have an unprecedented historical record of urban and suburban views that were disappearing, to be handed down to posterity.

The artist travelled around all Europe, as evidenced by the 23 exhibitions abroad (Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Dresden, Stuttgart, Munich, Wien, Belgium and the Netherlands) and the 46 in Italy (Rome, Turin, Milan, Florence, Trieste and Venice). Works by Ettore Roesler Franz ended up both in museums and royal collections and even in Alaska, Argentina and Australia.

Nineteen works have been purchased by excellent customers: Her Majesty the Empress Dagmar of Denmark, widow of Tsar Alexander III of Russia, his son Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, three kings of Italy (Victor Emmanuel II, Umberto I and Victor Emmanuel III of Italy), Queen Margherita of Savoy, the Grand Duke Louis of Hesse and the famous statesman Quintino Sella.

“Sincerity makes the artist great ” was the inscription which appeared at the entrance of his studio. Another motto was found on the back of one of his paintings, in French: “To succeed in life we must learn to be patient, take the hassles, undo and redo, restart and continue, avoiding that the motion of anger or the imagination impetus would be able to arrest or divert the daily effort”.


Among the buyers of the artist’s works during his life we have well-known personalities of the House of Savoy: King Victor Emmanuel II (1820-1878), Queen Margherita (1851-1926), her husband King Umberto I (1844-1900), their son King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy (1869-1947) and the Grand Duke Louis of Hesse, in fact, acquired five watercolors and six pastels. Six other watercolors were purchased by the italian Minister of Finance and statesman Quintino Sella (1827-1884). Among his “excellent” clients “excellent”, finally, there are Her Majesty the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Denmark (1847-1928), widow of Tsar Alexander III of Russia (1845-1894), and his son Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia (1871-1899) who purchased two watercolors.


On February 6th, 1903, the painter received the honorary citizenship of Tivoli. By clicking on the picture you can see the enlargement of the beautiful illuminated parchment by Giuseppe Cellini (12/9/1855-4/29/1940).

To counter the City Council of Tivoli after having received this honorary citizenship unanimously, Ettore Roesler Franz donated to the Municipality of Tivoli a watercolor depicting “Ponte Lupo-Poli” (66 x 102 cm, 1898), today located in the Mayor’s Office.

Cittadinanza Onoraria Tivoli


Here we can see his main portraits:

  • in 1863 (18 years old), made by Ettore Ferrari,
  • in 1897 (52 years old), made by Alfredo Vaccari,
  • in 1902 (57 years old), made by Giacomo Balla
  • in 1906 (61 years old), made by Edoardo Tani
  • in 1906 (61 years old), made by Adolfo Scalpelli

Here we can see the main photos of him:

  • in 1861 (16 years old)
  • in 1895 (50 years old)
  • in 1901 (60 years old) by Pio Tedeschi




Ettore Roesler Franz rests in the Chapel of his family at the Verano Monumental Cemetery in Rome (under Rupe Caracciolo, arc n.21) and is listed among the 21 famous people resting in the structure

By clicking here you can see the full list (n.19) and here more details, both from AMA Roma site.


Some documents and belongings of the Artist are visible by clicking here.


Some curiosities on Artist life are visible here.