All these portraits look slightly similar, and there’s a reason for that: all were made by the same early 18th century artist of which we almost never hear about: Rosalba Carriera.
You may think; “So you mean that there was this woman who was an artist but was neglected by history (or the way history has been written) even though she was awesome, and in this case, totally influential in art all around Europe, and most of us HAVE NEVER HEARD ABOUT HER?!”. Yeah, I mean exactly that. BUT today is the day to learn a little bit about her and take a look at some of her work.
Rosalba Carriera was born in 1673 in Venice in a middle-class family and started helping her mother making and designing lace, but soon she turned to portrait miniatures, and her career as an artist started. Some people consider that she was trained by Giuseppe Diamantini (pure speculation) or by someone else, but the fact is that there is no record of her education and she was most likely self educated (I have to say that if she was a guy, the self-taught part wouldn’t even be questioned. WHY.)
ANYWAY, her miniatures became quite popular, and if you were a wealthy person in the grand tour around Europe, you wanted to have your portrait made by this lady, who was the first artist to paint the miniature portraits on ivory instead of vellum. By 1703-4 she changed the miniatures to pastel, which became a medium appealing to the Rococo style thanks to its softness… and talking about Rococo, Carriera was a VERY influential artist from this movement, because of her style (clearly Rococo) becoming popular and making her travel around Europe and selling pieces to kings, court members and collectors, making the Rococo style being known while she traveled. I know, she was a rockstar.
Both her sisters were her assistant during the time her work was most popular helping Rosalba work on the many portrait jobs she took, but her sister Giovanna kept working with her until her death in 1738, which caused Rosalba to turn into depression. It did only get worse as her vision failed at the end of her life, getting blind before dying in 1757. Awful way to end an artist’s life, if you ask me.
Still, even though she’s not that famous nowadays, she was a VERY successful artist in her time and became a strong influence in other women artists like Catherine Read, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and our beloved Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
This was supposed to be a short post, but no XD Sorry about that.
Images from top:
- Self-portrait Holding a Portrait of Her Sister Giovanna, 1715, Uffizi Gallery.
- Charles Sackville, 2nd duke of Dorset, 1730.
- Horace Walpole.
- Portrait of a Man, ca. 1710, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Pisana Mocenigo, née Corner (or Cornaro), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
- Portrait of Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Holy Roman Empress, 1730, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
- Louis XV of France as Dauphin, 1720-21, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
- Portrait of Antoine Watteau, 1721, Museo Civico Luigi Bailo.
- Africa, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
- The Art Collector and Artist Antonio Maria Zanetti the Elder, Nationalmuseum (Stockholm).