Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

Antoine Watteau, fellow painter (1721) — with withdrawn look (the banner for this blog comes from one of Watteau’s paintings)

A Self Portrait as Winter (pastel 1731)

Dear friends and readers,

For the first round within the long 18th century for my project I’ll cover three women painters: the era is one of the focuses of this blog; its social worlds fostered many women painters, and a number of individual careers outside of the woman’s family life — though (alas) successfully discouraging most women (not all) from landscape and history painting. I’ve chosen one obscure (Francoise Duparc), one whose still-lifes are unfamiliar to many (Anne Vallayer-Coster), and one known whose work has been likened to Chardin’s: Rosalba Carriera. Her work is also a product of the Venetian culture she was part of, its tone, outlook, art genres.

The three for this time excel in 2 types of painting typically done by women in this era: the portrait, sometimes of themselves or unknown people and the still-life. Genre and conversation scenes and Roman and Greek classical figures are found more in the French (e.g, Marguerite Gerard, Angelica Kauffmann) and British (e.g., from Diana Spencer, View of Windsor, to Amelia Hotham in the 1790s, real landscape and watercolors, some inspired by travel far abroad, viz., Lady Anne Barnard from India). I will blog not just on separate women artists but kinds of art especially when the woman left only one or two paintings or really little is known about her. (My books include this sort of approach too.) In the 18th century women artists profited from the what has been (exaggeratedly) called the “reign of women” (in Paris people sometimes neglect to add); but if they did not reign, they were seen as central to social life, encouraged when artistic, and in Paris had Marie Antoinette to patronize those who came near her court. Carriera was a portraitist and painted herself movingly and frankly at different stages of her life and one of her beloved sisters.


She advanced the technical possibilities of pastel portraiture: oil pigments were mixed with filler, bound with gum, allowing for a fuller range of delicate nacreous effects, a fuller range of shades — she could paint very quickly too. She is said to have inspired Maurice Quentin de la Tour.

A young girl — my favorite of all her pieces, a miniature


Her miniatures were noted particularly for severe accuracy of drawing, united with rare softeness and delicacy of touch; they had the perfection of proportion, and the brilliancy and warmth of coloring for which her pastels were remarkable. Her tints were blended with great tenderness; her heads had a lovely expression of truth and nature (quoted in Fine, p 20)

Like Gentileschi and Van Hemmensen, she was a successful painter. Born October 7, 1675, daughter of a poor public official and lace-maker who she drew patterns for, painted miniatures and decorated snuff-boxes, which attracted a clientele. It’s for this kind of work her career took off:


Her extraordinary talent was noticed and developed. She took lessons from Guiseppe Dalmantini, Antonio Balestra, later the miniaturist, Coll, was accepted in the Accademia San Luca in 1705. Her likeness to Chardin is not only in her use of elegant taste (“le gout moderne”) and decorums of the era, but her depiction people also with expressive features, unassuming, warm and involved in their own activities. This made her popular when she went to Paris. Urged to come by a prominent French banker and art collector, Pierre Crozat; it was a triumphant year in which she met famous French artists (Watteau), did a portrait of Louis XV. It did not hurt that she played the violin. She was unanimously elected to the Royal Academy of Painting in 1720; this was not startling as four women had been elected in the 1720s (e.g., Sophie Cheron). She was said to be shy, and stayed within her family except when invited to fetes. Across her life, she is recorded as traveling, receiving commissions from rulers of Bavaria, the Palantine, Denmark, Saxony, Vienna, Dresden, Stockholm. There are more than 150 pastels in the Dresden Gemaldegalerie.

She moved back to live permanently in Venice from 1721 on. She chose never to marry and remained close to her family and sisters; Giovanna was a constant companion and assistant. Angela married a painter met through her sister. It was in 1738 that after the death of Giovanni from TB, that Rosalba became gravely ill. It seems her sister’s death precipitated some kind of[psychosomatic crisis, and she lost her sight (1745), from which she partially recovered but not enough to paint again. By 1747 she had undergone some operations (including cataract surgery) to try to restore her sight, but these failed by 1749, leaving her depressed. She died 8 years later (April 15, 1757). She had kept a journal of which some survives, called “curiously untelling;” in her will she asked that her private papers be burnt.

A haunting late life portrait when she might have been becoming blind (1745-47?)

I offer a few images to suggest something of her range and limitations: psychological depth and particularity in the face, flattery and banal acceptance:

Charles Duke of Dorset — while on tour, posing, full of himself

A naturalistic portrait of an elderly lady, warm colors, relaxed but clearly sees herself as a distinguished personage —

Her allegorical figures are serene, with delicate tones, rococo in style, but daring in conception:

Flora — her breasts bared; Venice was known for its courtesan milieus

America (!), with suggestive feathers in her hair, arrow in her hand, intricate Venetian jewelry; she has a quizzical expressiveness and looks strong (this probably does not reflect a squaw’s life at all; indeed a real squaw’s life is far from Carriera’s mind)

Carriera’s portraits of particular people show a careful use of color, meticulousness for their clothing, a flattering of their faces (which sometimes flattens them so they lose individuality): she had a real financial need.

She supported herself by her portraits.

Cardinal Melchior de Poignac (1732) — a dignified figure on a brown background

Young woman of the Leblond family (?1730) — she painted many women, here we have a young girl in a boy’s outfit (the way Marie Antoinette was later painted) — smooth fleshy skin, wispy wig, cool

Louis XV as a boy

Her appeal for me is in (as Elsa Honig Fine puts it) “her capacity for interpreting the human face with an often brutal honesty” (especially I’ll add of herself):


Borzello says of the above this is among the first portraits by a woman artist of a woman in older age; I suggest this comes out of the era’s look into the natural self; another is by Anna Dorothea Therbusch (Polish, 1721-82), also of herself



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