Portrait of Rosalba Carriera, c. 1750
A wonderful mid-18th century Italian oil-on-canvas portrait painting of Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera by a pupil, follower, or admirer depicting Carriera sitting in an emerald damask upholstered Louis XV style chair painting a bewigged gentleman’s portrait in her studio with drapery and classical sculptures in background. Presented in original cove-moulded frame having lamb’s-tongue and bead ornament with original gilding. Canvas alone measures 16.38″ by 19.63″. Signed in ink on original stretcher “Rosalba Carriera” and on 19th century relining in charcoal “Rosalba Carriera peint par (illegible)”. A truly unique and rare art-work. Rosalba Carriera Her work, more than any other Italian painter of the 1700s, inspired a number of British artists including George Knapton (1698-1778) and William Hoare (1707-1792). Early Life Rosalba Carriera was born in Venice in 1673 or 1675. Her father, Andrea Carriera of Chioggia, was the steward of the Procurator Bon and her mother was a lace maker. As a child, Carriera often drew pictures in her lesson books and later made lace patterns for her mother. The family was considered lower-middle class and money was tight. Knowing a handsome dowry for all three girls would be impossible; Andrea educated his children in hopes of making them more able to find suitable husbands. To that end, Rosalba, her sisters Giovanna and Angela, studied Italian, French and Latin literature. All became accomplished musicians. Rosalba played the violin and harpsichord. Most believe that Giuseppe Diamantini (1621-1705) and his student Antonio Balestra (1666-1740) were Rosalba’s first teachers. She served as their apprentice often doing the more tedious tasks for the artists while learning her trade. She painted in oils and was earning a living by copying the great masters. Some believe she may have also studied under Giovanni Antonio Lazzari (1639-1713) and Federico Bencovich (1667-1753). Female Painters & Society She faced a number of challenges in pursuing her trade. While male painters were considered professional artists, women painters were seen more as hobbyists. It’s no wonder with that perspective, that two of her early patrons offered her things like gloves and hand-embroidered sachets as payment. Upon delivery of a Madonna painting, another patron asked her to recommend a young, male painter to reproduce landscapes and historical paintings to decorate his castle under the assumption that Carriera would not be able to complete the commission herself. Portrait Painting Innovations Carriera took a different approach to portrait painting. She would spend time with her subject to study their personality, coloring and general appearance. She would make sketches in pen and ink, pastels and chalk. Clothing would be painted from the actual garment and once the scene was complete, the subject would sit only for the head and face. Rosalba often invited friends and relatives to these sittings and the subject was free to chat and laugh with the assembled company. Perhaps it was these informal gatherings that brought out the inner beauty of her subjects as the artist was able to capture, not the exact appearance of her subject, but their happiness and pleasure of being with friends. Rosalba primarily painted portraits of women and children in the rococo style. While her technique brought out the charm and beauty of her subjects, her portraits of men were often seen as being overly feminine. She often placed her subjects in the settings that surrounded them rather than in formal settings. Her portraits primarily consisted of the subject’s head and shoulders but pets, flowers and hands could be added for an additional price. Venetian and Italian art was becoming in vogue throughout Europe and official visitors and tourists frequently sought out fashionable painters like Carriera, Pietro Longhi (1702-1785), Canaletto (1697-1768) and Francesco Guardi (1712-1793). In High Demand Throughout Europe In 1720, Carriera was invited to Paris by her friend and fellow artist Pierre Crozat (1661-1740) where she was literally besieged by admirers. She traveled to Paris with her sister Angela and her brother-in-law Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1740), also an artist. While there, she painted the portrait of ten-year-old Louis XV and a number of other members of the court. Carriera was honored by being the first foreign woman painter admitted to the Royal Academie of Painting and Sculpture. That same year, she was admitted to the academy in Bologna. Angela and Giovanna helped Rosalba paint numerous portraits during the year she was in France. (Historical accounts vary, but she painted somewhere between 50, 100 or hundreds of portraits while in France.) In 1723, she traveled to Modena to paint a series of portraits of princess Enrichetta Anna Sofia to give to suitors. In 1730, she visited the court in Vienna where she gave instruction to the Empress of Germany and painted a portrait of the empress. The King of Poland became one of her most ardent admirers. On several occasions he attempted to get Carriera to paint exclusively for him. She continually refused. But, his patronage and that of his sons led to the substantial collection of her works that can be found in the Dresden Museum. Students of Rosalba Carriera Carriera taught a number of women the art of portrait painting. One student seems remembered in name only – Luisa Bergalli. Another student, Felicita Sartori, a former servant, had Rosalba to thank for a career as a miniaturist as well as her marriage to Franz Joseph von Hoffmann. Rosalba also tutored Margherita Terzi and Marianna Carlevaris (1703-1750). At least one historian suspects that Terzi and Carlevaris may have painted a number of the works currently attributed to Rosalba. Carriera’s popularity led to a thriving secondary market where her works were copied and sold. Some copies were commissioned and others were fraudulently claimed to be her work. She generally didn’t sign or date her work which made probably made it easier for those who copied her works and harder for historians to properly attribute her works. Legacy of Rosalba Carriera, Italian Portrait Artist and Pastelist Much of what we know about Carriera’s personal life comes from her correspondence with friends and her personal diaries. She was friends with Bencovich, Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder (1679-1767), Antione Watteau (1684-1721) and a number of other well-known artists. Watteau was also an admirer of Rosalba’s work. The painting most often used by historians when discussing Watteau’s career was painted by Rosalba Carriera. While Carriera had many admirers and had extensive correspondence with several, she never married. When her sister died in 1737, she began painting less. Perhaps due to the strain from decades of working with miniatures, Rosalba was completely blind by 1745. Two separate operations failed to restore her sight. She died in Venice in 1757, after outliving her entire family.
Condition: Excellent. Canvas was relined in the 19th century on original stretcher. Recently cleaned. Original frame with original gilding shows wear. Presents beautifully.
Number of items: 1
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