Archive for the ‘Nostell Priory’ Category

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: