Angelica Kauffmann

Swiss Neoclassical Painter

1741 - 1807

Self Portrait of Angelica Kauffmann

Maria Anna Angelika/Angelica Katharina Kauffmann was a Swiss-Austrian Painter

She was born at Chur in Graubunden, Switzerland, but grew up in Schwarzenberg in Vorarlberg/Austria where her family originated. Her father, Joseph Johann Kauffmann, was a relatively poor man but a skilled painter that was often traveling around for his works. He was apparently very successful in teaching his precocious daughter. She rapidly acquired several languages from her mother Cleophea Lutz, read incessantly, and showed marked talents as a musician. Her greatest progress, however, was in painting; and in her twelfth year she had become a notability, with bishops and nobles for her sitters. In 1754 her father took her to Milan. Later visits to Italy of long duration followed: in 1763 she visited Rome, returning again in 1764. From Rome she passed to Bologna and Venice, being everywhere feted and caressed, as much for her talents as for her personal charms.

Writing from Rome in August 1764 to his friend Franke, Winckelmann refers to her exceptional popularity. She was then painting his picture, a half-length, of which she also made an etching. She spoke Italian as well as German, he says; and she also expressed herself with facility in French and English, one result of the last-named accomplishment being that she became a popular portraitist for English visitors to Rome. "She may be styled beautiful," he adds, "and in singing may vie with our best virtuosi." While at Venice, she was induced by Lady Wentworth, the wife of the German ambassador, to accompany her to London. One of her first works was a portrait of David Garrick, exhibited in the year of her arrival at "Mr Moreing's great room in Maiden Lane." The rank of Lady Wentworth opened society to her, and she was everywhere well received, the royal family especially showing her great favor.

David Garrick

Miss Angelika Kauffmannn and Lady Wentworth at Joshua Reynolds' Studio
By Margaret Isabel Dicksee

Her firmest friend, however, was Sir Joshua Reynolds. In his pocket-book, her name as Miss Angelica or Miss Angel appears frequently, and in 1766 he painted her, a compliment which she returned by her Portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Another instance of her intimacy with Reynolds is to be found in her variation of Guercino's 'Et in Arcadia ego', a subject which Reynolds repeated a few years later in his portrait of 'Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe'.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe
By Sir Joshua Reynolds

When, in about November 1767, she was entrapped into a clandestine marriage with an adventurer who passed for a Swedish Count (the Count de Horn), Reynolds helped extract her. It was doubtless owing to his good offices that she was among the signatories to the famous petition to the king for the establishment of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In its first catalogue of 1769 she appears with "R.A." after her name (an honor she shared with one other lady, Mary Moser); and she contributed the Interview of Hector and Andromache, and three other classical compositions.

Her friendship with Reynolds was criticized in 1775 by fellow Academician Nathaniel Hone in his satirical picture "The Conjurer". This attacked the fashion for Italianate Renaissance art, ridiculed Reynolds, and included a nude caricature of Kauffmann, later painted out by Hone. The work was rejected by the Royal Academy.

The Conjurer
By Nathaniel Hone

The Conjurer

"The Pictorial Conjurer displaying the Whole Art of Optical Deception" the picture is a direct attack on Sir Joshua Reynolds the then president of The Royal Academy.

In 1774 Reynolds in a lecture to the academy at a prize giving ceremony argued the importance of copying not just from nature but from the old masters as well. A year later Hone produced this picture but it was rejected by the academy although it had originally been accepted until a complaint from the artist Angelica Kauffman in which she claimed that she had been represented as a nude in the top left of the picture. This however was really just a ruse and the real complainant was Reynolds. Hone later painted out the nude figures and went on to exhibit the painting at no.70 St. Martins Lane in London where it probable received more notice than it might have if it had been exhibited at the academy. This is believed to be the first one man show in Britain. A sketch in oils for the painting is to be seen in The Tate Gallery, London.

This is not the only time that Hone had trouble with the academy over one of his pictures. In 1770 The Royal Academy asked him to make changes to one of his paintings in which a Capuchin Friar while seated at a table could be seen stirring a bowl of punch with a crucifix.

From 1769 until 1782, she was an annual exhibitor, sending sometimes as many as seven pictures, generally classic or allegorical subjects. One of the most notable was 'Leonardo expiring in the Arms of Francis the First 1778'. In 1773 she was appointed by the Academy with others to decorate Saint Paul's Cathedral, and it was she who, with Biagio Rebecca, painted the Academy's old lecture room at Somerset House.

Kauffmann's strength was her work in history painting, the most elite and lucrative category in academic painting during the 18th century. Under the direction of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Academy made a strong effort to promote history painting to a native audience who were more interested in commissioning and buying portraits and landscapes. Despite the popularity that Kauffmann enjoyed in English society and her success as an artist, she was disappointed by the relative apathy that the English had for history painting. Ultimately, she left England for the continent where history painting was better established, esteemed, and patronized.

Kauffmann (seated) in the company of other Bluestockings: (1778)
(Bluestocking is a disparaging term, no longer in common use, for an educated, intellectual woman.)

It is probable that her popularity declined a little in consequence of her unfortunate marriage; but in 1781, after her first husband's death (she had been long separated from him), she married Antonio Zucchi (1728-1795), a Venetian artist then resident in England. Shortly afterwards she retired to Rome, where she befriended, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said she worked harder and accomplished more than any artist he knew, yet always restive she wanted to do more (Goethe's 'Italian Journey' 1786-1788) and lived for 25 years with much of her old prestige. In 1782 she lost her father; and in 1795, her husband. She continued at intervals to contribute to the Academy, her last exhibit being in 1797. After this she produced little, and in 1807 she died in Rome, being honored by a splendid funeral under the direction of Canova. The entire Academy of Saint Luke, with numerous ecclesiastics and virtuosi, followed her to her tomb in San Andrea delle Fratte, and, as at the burial of Raphael, two of her best pictures were carried in procession.

The works of Angelica Kauffmann have not retained their reputation. She had a certain gift of grace, and considerable skill in composition. But her figures lack variety and expression; and her men are masculine women (it is worth noting that, at the time, female artists were not allowed access to male models). Her coloring, however, is fairly enough defined by Gustav Friedrich Waagen's term "cheerful". As of 1911, rooms decorated by her brush were still to be seen in various quarters. At Hampton Court was a portrait of the 'Duchess of Brunswick'; in the National Portrait Gallery, a self-portrait. There were other pictures by her at Paris, at Dresden, in the Hermitage at Saint Petersburg, and in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich. The Munich example was another portrait of herself; and there was a third in the Uffizi at Florence. A few of her works in private collections were exhibited among the Old Masters at Burlington House. But she is perhaps best known by the numerous engravings from her designs by Schiavonetti, Bartolozzi and others. Those by Bartolozzi especially still found considerable favor with collectors.

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), artist, patriot, and founder of a major American art dynasty, named several of his children after great European artists, including a daughter, Angelica Kauffman Peale. Her life was written in 1810 by Giovanni de Rossi. It has also been used as the basis of a romance by Leon de Wailly (1838) and it prompted the charming novel contributed by Mrs Richmond Ritchie to the Cornhill Magazine in 1875 entitled Miss Angel.

She should not be confused with painter Angelika Kaufmann, who was born in 1935 in Carinthia, Austria.

Colour: (1779)

Design: (1779)

Invention: (1779)

A Sleeping Nymph Watched by a Shepherd: ca 1780

Children with a Bird's Nest and Flowers

Four Children with a Basket of Fruit

Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, and his Family: 1783

Angelika Kauffmann painted this large-format portrait in Rome in 1783; Museo di Capodimonte, Naples). It shows Ferdinand IV, King of Naples (1751-1825), Queen Marie Carolina, a daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, and their six children in life-size, full-length figures against the backdrop of a park landscape.

In her list of works the painter includes a detailed description of the completed family portrait: 'The King is represented in a standing pose, as if he had just returned from the hunt, the Queen sits surrounded by her children, next to her is a cradle, or rather a child's wagon... The entire royal family is simply clothed and the painting depicts a rustic scene.'

The history behind this painting, the principal work of the artist's portrait oeuvre, is exceptionally well documented. The modello in the Princely Collections summarizes the results of the initial sketches and the intensive portrait sittings. The elaborately detailed painting followed the oil sketch.

The royal couple's seventh child was stillborn during the preparation phase for the painting. The artist then painted a veil over the child already in the cradle, which had been clearly visible in the modello.

Hector Calls Paris to the Battle: 1775

The Coward

Some have thought that just as Hector could be the incarnation of bravery, his brother Paris could be that of cowardice. For that reason, reproaches of all kinds have fallen upon the head of this handsome man, whose deeds, some affirm, caused the ruin of Troy. Yet, the burden of cowardice may be heavier than the toil of courage, and it also takes a man to bear it to the end of time. Courage has its reward, but for him who has been appointed by nature or the gods to play the part of the coward, there is no rest, now or later. And these issues being matter of opinion, Paris was also accused, near the end of his life, of being too bold.

Courage, 'a strange thing'

Courage comes and leaves as it pleases. For even Hector, the bravest among the braves, trembled when he confronted Achilles, and ran away, being pursued by his enemy around the walls of Troy like a hare by a dog. And if he finally faced Achilles, it was because a goddess, who wished his death, fooled him to do so.

Paris' greatest prowess in war

And what brave Hector, though being the pillar of Troy, could not accomplish in close combat, was later done by Paris from the distance. For him, using weapons adapted to what has been thought to be his less audacious nature, put an end to Achilles' life, thus avenging the brother who had despised him.

The gods needed a seducer

But all these matters were, as many say, 'on the knees of the gods'. Being so, a seducer was needed, since (as it is told) it was the will of Zeus to make his daughter Helen famous for having entangled Europe and Asia in hostility. Others assert that the god just wished to exalt the race of the demigods. But in any case, Zeus, having planned with Themis how to bring about the Trojan War, appointed the shepherd Paris to judge the goddesses in Mount Ida, where Aphrodite gave him the promised bribe, Helen, in exchange for the Apple of Eris (Discord) that Paris awarded her.

Hector Reproaching Paris

The Monk of Calais: ca 1766-1781

This painting of Kauffman's is derived from a scene in Laurence Sterne's 'A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy' (1768, part I, chapter 2), which was immensely popular during Kauffman's stay in England. The painting depicts Parson Yorick, protagonist of the novel, exchanging snuffboxes with a French monk named Father Lorenzo. Through the arch, we can see the docks of Calais. In the painting, Yorick bears a strong resemblance to Sterne himself.

Insane Mary

Insane Maria like the Monk of Calais, the subject for the picture is taken from A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768, part II, ch. 17) by Laurence Sterne. During his journeys, the main character, Parson Yorick, meets insane Maria, who had become mad because of an unhappy love affair. Kauffman painted five versions of this subject.

La baronne de Krudener nee Barbara Juliane von Wietinghoff et son fils Paul

Lady Elizabeth Foster: 1784

Lord John Simpson: (1773)

Louisa Hammond

Louise Henrietta Campbell Later Lady Scarlett as The Muse of Literature

This portrait of a middle-aged woman in front of her dressing-table was for many years believed to be a self-portrait, but comparison with authentic self-portraits disproves this. The inscription tells us that the portrait was painted in Rome in 1795, so it is more likely to have been a likeness of Princess Esterhazy, for whom Angelica Kauffmann is known to have worked at that time.

Marriage of Saint Catherine

Miranda and Ferdinand in The Tempest: 1782

Miss Elizabeth Temple as a Child: (1793)

Penelope at her Loom: 1764

When Odysseus failed to return from the Trojan War (he was delayed for ten years on his way home), Penelope was beset by suitors who wanted her to remarry. In order to delay them, she insisted that she could not remarry until she had finished weaving a shroud for Odysseus' father, Laertes. She worked each day at her loom, and then unraveled the cloth each night. After three years of successful delay, one of her servants revealed her deception, and the impatient suitors angrily demanded that she choose one of them for her husband immediately. At the prompting of Athene, Penelope said that she would marry the man who could string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axes. By this time, Odysseus himself had secretly returned, disguised as a beggar; he passed the test of the bow, and then proceeded to slaughter the suitors who had tormented his wife.

Portrait of a Lady: (1775)

Portrait of a Woman: 1795

This portrait of a middle-aged woman in front of her dressing-table was for many years believed to be a self-portrait, but comparison with authentic self-portraits disproves this. The inscription tells us that the portrait was painted in Rome in 1795, so it is more likely to have been a likeness of Princess Esterhazy, for whom Angelica Kauffmann is known to have worked at that time.

Portrait of a Woman: ca 1782-85

Portrait of a Woman Dressed as Vestal Virgin

The Vestal Virgins were priestesses of the temple of Vesta (Greek Hestia), the Roman goddess of the fire that burns in the hearth. One of the Vestals' duties was to keep the altar fire in the temple burning perpetually. They were sworn to absolute chastity; breaking the vow was punished by burial alive.

Portrait of a Young Woman as a Sibyl

Portrait of Countess A S Protasova with Her Nieces: 1788

Anna Stepanovna Protasova (1745-1826) - daughter of Senator Stepan Feodorovich Protasov and Anisya Nikitishna, nee Orlova. Maid-of-honor to Catherine II; in 1785, she became lady-in-waiting. She was a favorite of Catherine II and accompanied her on all her trips and journeys. In 1801, she was granted the title of Countess and remained lady-in-waiting to the Empress Maria Feodorovna. She died in Saint Petersburg in 1826.

Portrait of Karl Leberecht: 1785

Leberecht, Karl was an engraver and medalist employed by the Saint Petersburg Mint. Between 1783 and 1785, he studied in Rome with funding from the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. He was elected a full member of the Academy in 1794. This portrait by Kauffman was probably painted during the sitter's stay in Rome.

Portrait of the Bertel Thorvaldsen: (1843)

The portrait of the sculptor Thorvaldsen is a striking record of the celebrated Dane as an old man (he was in fact to die the following year). Angelica Kaufmann painted this portrait during her second stay in Rome and must have finished it around autumn of 1842. Thorvaldsen, who left Rome on 1 October of that year, appears to have added his own signature to the picture before the paint had died. As in Lampi's Portrait of Antonio Canova, we also encounter here an impressive personality, albeit not one conveyed through expansive gesture. Rather, we have the sense of an individual turned in upon himself, who has found inner peace at the end of a lifetime's labors. The subject is depicted so as to eschew any outward expression, in a manner that might be described as 'private' (with all the connotations this term had for the Biedermeier Era) and without any celebration of his profession. Distracting details have been dispensed with, and one can sense the relationship established between the painter and her sitter. More than any of the other numerous portraits of Thorvaldsen, this picture confronts the spectator with the subject's character: melancholy appears to be the dominant emotion, and this had indeed found its reflection in the often extreme reserve, even lifelessness, of his sculptures.

Sappho Inspired by Love: (1775)

Self Portrait: 1787

Self Portrait: 1797

In this self-portrait Angelica Kauffman points to herself while looking at us. She balances her drawing book under her right hand which is poised ready to make a mark with her pastel. The pastel is held firmly in a 'porte-crayon' - a pastel holder which gave the artist using pastels flexibility of movement and making gestured marks easier to execute through added length. At this time pastels would have been quite stumpy and frail as they were hand-made from pure pigment and gum arabic. The painting is bathed in a warm, soft light. Her skin appears translucent and her clothing softly echoes the folds and curls of her tumbling hair. Distinctly feminine and seductive, the painting reinforces the determination of the woman artist rather than detracting from it, in the way that she presents herself with the tools of her trade.

Self Portrait: ca 1780-85

In this elegant young woman in her low-cut dress, the hat with its silk band in the fashion of the time, with her curls falling softly around her shoulders, we see a woman of an uncommon fate. Angelica Kauffman, who received no proper systematic education, thanks solely to her own talent and regular copying of the great masters, gained great success as an artist. That she was recognized by professionals is evidenced by her election as a member of the Academy of Saint Luke in Rome and particularly of the Royal Academy in London, where she was the sole female member. Kauffman was famed as a portraitist and both the oval form she selected for this self-portrait, and the soft resonance of the pastel tones, are characteristic of late 18th-century portraits. The attentive, intelligent gaze and barely noticeable smile which just plays at the corner of her mouth introduce that element of the personal and individual which sets the painting apart from the general mass of female portraits at which the artist was so skilled. Kauffman painted several self-portraits and this one dates to her stay in Rome.

Self Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting: 1791

Sir James Hall of Dunglass: 1785

The high forehead and inquisitive eyes suggest the many talents of this clever young man. Hall, a pioneer of geology, then a young and controversial scientist, spent three years touring Europe, investigating the rock formations of the Alps and Apennines and studying volcanoes in Italy. This sympathetic portrait was painted in Rome by one of the city's most fashionable artists.

Telemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso

Angelica Kauffmann was born in Switzerland but made her reputation in Italy and England, where she was a founding member of the Royal Academy. In Rome she frequented the sophisticated intellectual circle of Winckelmann and Mengs. These pictures were painted for Monsignor Onorato Caetani shortly after Kauffmann settled in Rome, in 1782. The subjects are taken from Fenelon's romance Telemaque, first published in 1699. In one picture Telemachus and his companion, Mentor, who have been washed ashore, are welcomed by Calypso and her nymphs. In the other, Calypso motions her nymphs to be silent when their songs about Telemachus's father Ulysses make him sorrowful.

The Sorrow of Telemachus

Ulysses and Circe: 1786

Ulysses, the Latin equivalent of the Greek Odysseus, was the King of Ithaca, a Greek island. He was married to Penelope and they had a son named Telemachus. He was one of the Greek leaders in the Trojan War. The Greeks fought the Trojans for ten years, but Ulysses came up with a plan to burn down Troy and save Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the Spartan king. He had the Greek army build a wooden horse that he and nineteen other soldiers could fit in. All of the Greek warships left the shores of Troy and left the horse behind. The Trojans thought that it was a gift from the Greeks, so the people of Troy brought it through the gates of the city. Late that night, Ulysses and the nineteen soldiers snuck out of the wooden horse and let the newly arrived Greek army through the gates. The Greeks burned down Troy and saved Helen, but Ulysses still had a long journey ahead of him.

Ulysses and his men set sail for Ithaca. After a few weeks of sailing, Ulysses and his men ran out of food. They landed on an island, to look for food and water. They found a whole cave full of food, but they soon found out that the food belonged to a one-eyed giant called Polyphemus. Ulysses and his men tricked Polyphemus and escaped with the food. Unfortunately for Ulysses, Polyphemus was a son of Neptune, the God of the Sea.

Once again, Ulysses' men ran out of food, so they landed on another island. The sailors divided into two groups, Ulysses and some of the crew stayed with the ship, while the others went to look for food. The next morning, one of the "food-searchers" came running back to the boat. The sailor told Ulysses of a sorceress named Circe who had turned the other crew members into hogs. At once, Ulysses ran with the sailor to Circe's palace, but on the way, Mercury came with a gift from one of the gods. It was a magical flower that would act a shield on Ulysses from Circe's magic. Ulysses met with Circe. Circe tried to use her magic on him, but it didn't work, so she gave in and turned the back into humans. Plus, she warned Ulysses of the dangers to come. With lots of food, Ulysses and his men left the island.

Thanks to Circe, Ulysses overcame the next dangers. He overcame the dooming song of the Sirens by plugging his ears and his crew. The sailors came upon the six-headed monster called Scylla. Though all of his crew were eaten by Scylla, Ulysses escaped, only to be washed ashore by a storm where a princess found him and took him to her father. The king gave Ulysses his fastest ship to use to sail home with. When, Ulysses reached Ithaca, he deceived the men that wanted to marry his wife, and killed them. Ulysses finally reclaimed his throne.

Virgil Reading The Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia

Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia. Virgil (70 -19 BC) was the favorite poet of the Roman Emperor Augustus and author of the epic poem the Aeneid, which recounts the adventures of the Trojan Aeneas after the fall of Troy. It was said that when Virgil was reciting the poem to Augustus and his sister Octavia, the latter was so moved when she heard the lines devoted to her dead son Marcellus that she lost consciousness. On Kauffman's painting, Virgil holds a scroll with lines from the poem: "Tu Marcellus eris"

The Aeneid
By Virgil

Venus and Adonis: 1786


Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua


Right Honourable,

I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to
your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so
strong a prop to support so weak a burden: only, if your honour seem
but pleased, I account my self highly praised, and vow to take
advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver
labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I
shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so
barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it
to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart's content;
which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's
hopeful expectations.

Your honour's in all duty,
William Shakespeare

Text of Venus and Adonis

Venus Convinces Helen to go with Paris: 1790

Venus Persuades Helen to Fall in Love with Paris

Three goddesses, Athena, Hera and Aphrodite quarreled over a golden apple with a sign that it should belong to the most beautiful among them. No one wanted to take a task of choosing between three goddesses. Zeus therefore sent them off to Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy. Paris decided in favor of Aphrodite, who had promised him the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen, the wife of Menelaus. The Greek playwright Aeschylus called Helen 'destroyer of ships, destroyer of men, destroyer of cities'. The result of Paris' decision was the Trojan War.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Johann Joachim Winckelmann, a German art historian and archaeologist, was a pioneering Hellenist who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art. "The prophet and founding hero of modern archaeology," Winckelmann was one of the founders of scientific archaeology and first applied the categories of style on a large, systematic basis to the history of art. Many consider him to be the father of art history. His would be the decisive influence on the rise of the neoclassical movement during the late eighteenth century. His writings influenced not only a new science of archaeology and art history but Western painting, sculpture, literature and even philosophy. Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art (1764) was one of the first books written in German to become a classic of European literature. His subsequent influence on Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Hölderlin, Heine, Nietzsche, George, and Spengler, has been provocatively called "the Tyranny of Greece over Germany."

Iphigenia in Tauris: 1803

Iphigenia in Tauris
By Euripides

Luise von Anhalt-Dessau

Papirius Pratextatus Entreated by his Mother

Portrait Louisa Leveson Gower: 1767

Portrait Mme Latouche

Source: Web Gallery of Art

Source: Art Renewal Center

This page is the work of Senex Magister

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