Archive for the ‘Kauffman, Angelica’ Category

Angelica Kauffman: Celebrity designer

May 26, 2010

Bacchus and Ariadne with Cupid, by Angelica Kauffmann, at Attingham Park, Shropshire. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Angelica Kauffman may have been hesitating between music and painting, as I showed previously, but she felt no need to choose between the fine and the decorative arts.

Kauffman collaborated with printmakers in the production of stipple engravings and mezzotints based on her paintings. She was directly involved in the production and marketing of her prints.

Print depicting Cupid, after Angelica Kauffman, in the Print Room at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Kauffman was one of the few contemporary artists whose works were used to make ‘mechanical paintings’ – a process of colour reproduction that was invented in the 1770s and was especially suited for use in decorative schemes.

Detail of the ceiling in the State Bedchamber at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The central roundel depicts Aglaia, one of the Three Graces, after Kauffmann. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Kauffman may have provided some sketches for architect and designer Robert Adam, but she was not directly responsible for the many decorative works attributed to her.

Painted roundel showing a wedding feast by Antonio Zucchi, Kauffman's husband, set in a stucco panel in the Eating Room at Osterley. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Although Kauffman’s designs were widely used on walls, ceilings, porcelain and furniture, most of them were actually copied or reproduced by others or simply based on her style.

Roundel depicting Venus guarding a sleeping Cupid after Kauffman on the marble mantelpiece in the Boudoir at Attingham. ©NTPL/James Mortimer

Even so, the usefulness of her neo-classical figures as decorative motifs ensured the continuing popularity of the Kauffman ‘brand’.

Angelica Kauffman: Celebrity artist

April 19, 2010

Self-portrait by Angelica Kauffman at Saltram, Devon. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/John Hammond

I previously featured the Kauffman portrait that we manage to re-acquire for Oxburgh Hall, but in other National Trust properties we also have a few works by this artist, which illustrate her remarkable career.

Angelica Kauffman, The Artist Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting, 1791 or 1794, at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. Acquired with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2002. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland in 1741, and as she grew up she showed talent for both music and art. A priest advised her that art would be more rewarding in the long term. Kauffman later dramatised this ‘judgement of Hercules’ decision in an image of herself hesitating between the blandishments of Music and the rocky road of Painting.

Portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds by Kauffman, 1767, at Saltram, Devon. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/Rob Matheson

Kauffman’s father took her to Italy where she studied drawing and painting and visited important collections. She was fluent in several languages and was fêted as a female prodigy. In 1766 Lady Wentworth, the wife of the British ambassador to Venice, took her to London, where she befriended Joshua Reynolds who enthusiastically promoted her career.

Venus Directing Aeneas and Achates to Carthage, by Angelica Kauffman. Exhbited at the Royal Academy in 1769. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Kauffman was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. She was keen to paint historical, literary and mythological subjects, which were seen as more prestigious than portraits. 

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster by Angelica Kauffman, 1785, at Ickworth, Suffolk. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

Portraits were an important source of income for Kauffman, however. After a brief and disastrous marriage to a conman she married the Venetian painter Antonio Pietro Zucchi in 1781. She ended her life in Rome, where people like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Antonio Canova sought her out.

These paintings can be seen at:

The return of Mrs Clavering

March 19, 2010


Portrait of Mary Walsh, Mrs Ralph Clavering, by Angelica Kauffman, about 1780. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

National Trust curators are always looking for objects that have ‘escaped’ from the historic houses in their care. These objects sometimes turn up at auction, in which case we quickly need to decide if we want to acquire them – and if we can afford it.

The portrait by Angelica Kauffman shown above, dated to around 1780, appeared in a Sotheby’s sale in London in June 2008. It was desirable because it depicts an ancestor of the Bedingfelds of Oxburgh Hall, but also because of its quality as a portrait. Kauffman seems to have had the knack of making all her sitters look intelligent, relaxed and charming, a talent ideally suited to the ‘age of sensibility’.

Oxburgh Hall. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

The Bedingfelds had lived at Oxburgh ever since it was built in 1482. As Catholics they were sometimes persecuted, and they generally lacked the funds to alter the moated manor house too radically. In 1950 Sir Edmund Paston-Bedingfeld, the 9th Baronet, was finally forced to sell the estate for tax reasons. Many of the contents were sold, but Sir Edmund’s mother, Sybil, Lady Bedingfeld, and two other relatives managed to save the house from demolition and donate it to the National Trust.

Gothic tabernacle, in the Queen's Room at Oxburgh, one of the items bought back in 2004. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The National Trust has since tried to re-acquire the lost items as and when they became available. In 2004, for instance, curators spotted eight ex-Oxburgh pieces of furniture and sculpture in a Bonhams auction. Their provenance had been forgotten – they were ‘sleepers’ – and the National Trust was able to buy them all back with the help of an anonymous benefactor.

The West Drawing Room at Oxburgh. The Kauffman has now been returned to the position nearest to the corner, where it is recorded in the 1951 sale catalogue. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

It was clear that we would need significant funds to buy back the personable Mrs Clavering. However, the volunteers who run the second-hand bookshop at Oxburgh generously contributed a substantial sum, and we also managed to secure a grant from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. In the end we had just enough to beat off the competition, and the picture is now back at Oxburgh.

Mary, 3rd Duchess of Richmond, in Turkish dress. Print by William Wynne Ryland, 1775, after Angelica Kauffman. Image: Sanders of Oxford

Mrs Clavering is depicted in Turkish dress, which was fashionable in England in the late eighteenth century. The image above, kindly provided by Sanders of Oxford, shows a print after a portrait, also by Kauffman, of the 3rd Duchess of Richmond in similar costume (the original painting is at Goodwood House).

There may have been a mildy racy undertone in these portraits, with their connotations of the Ottoman harem. In about 1750 Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s official mistress, had had a bedroom fitted out for her at the château de Bellevue which was called the chambre à la turque and was decorated with paintings of seraglio scenes. A Turkish-style French bed of the period can be seen here.