Rosalba Carriera was one of the most important, most popular and most successful Venetian portrait painters of the Rococo period. She is especially renowned for her intimate and flattering pastel colour portraits.
She was born to a well established family in 1673. Her father was a chancellor for the Republic of Venice, and her mother an able lace maker.
Rosalba and her sisters received a good education, which included music, literature, poetry, drawing and French and English. Her drawing skills attracted particular attention, and her parents sent her to the Venetian painters Giuseppe Diamantini and Antonio Balestra to learn more.
Initially Rosalba Carriera used her skills and education to paint miniature portraits on ivory for snuffboxes, which was quite profitable. Snuff was the preferred way of consuming tobacco for the aristocracy of the period, and snuffboxes were popular luxury items.
She learned the technique of pastel colours around 1700. Her first known pastel portraits are from 1703.
Her talent as a painter, and her particular skill for reading peoples’ personality in a sitting, allowed her to create intimate and flattering, yet realistic portraits.
She soon became a sought after artist. Young aristocrats on the Grand Tour would come to have their portrait painted, and they were followed by foreign dignitaries and people of means.
Martineau, Jane, and Royal Academy of Arts, eds. 1994. La gloria di Venezia: l’arte nel diciottesimo secolo ; Royal Academy of Arts, Londra, 1994, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1995. Milano: Electa.
Nepi Scirè, Giovanna, Giulio Manieri Elia, Debora Tosato, and Sandra Rossi. 2009. Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia. Milano: Electa.
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