Roba di Roma. Keeley Halswelle ARSA, RI 1832-1891. 1868. James Dafforne explains that this was the year in which Halswelle went to Rome with a friend who also painted, and produced this work, which he showed at the Royal Academy in 1869 (101). The title was probably suggested by William Wetmore Story's collection of essays by the same title about various aspects of life in Rome ("roba" is a catch-all term meaning something like "stuff," or "all sorts of things"), which was first published by Chapman and Hall in 1863. It is perfect for a painting featuring a pedlar, who in this instance has encountered a bevy of priests, while other people go about their business nearby. Dafforne writes:
Beside the stout priest is another, a younger man, looking furtively at a pleasant-faced female passing the stall with a basket on her head, and accompanied by a little girl carrying a number of flasks or bottles; behind these is a man, wearing the cloak common to the lower classes in Rome, and lighting a pipe. Each of the two groups is effectively put together, and, combined as we see them, unite into a most attractive and forcible whole. 
Dafforne found the work memorable, and his view was obviously shared by others. He tells us that it won the prize for the best picture at the exhibition when shown at the Royal Institution in Manchester in 1870 (102).
Image download, commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Dafforne, James. "British Artists — Keeley Halswelle, A.R.S.A." The Art Journal: New Series, Vol. 5 (1879). London: J. S. Virtue, 1879: 101-04. JSTOR Early English Content on the Internet Archive. Web. 9 July 2020.
Created 9 July 2020