Rosalba Carriera

Born: October 7, 1675  - Death: April 15, 1757    Located in: Painting of the 18th Century

Born in Venice, Carriera was a prominent and greatly admired portrait artist of Venetian Rococo painting. In her younger years, she specialized in portrait miniatures and later became known for her pastel work, a style appealing for its soft edges and flowery touches. As a child she began her artistic career by making lace-patterns for her mother, who was engaged in that trade. Others claim she had initial instruction in oil technique by the undistinguished Venetian painter Giuseppe Diamantini (1621 – 1705).

With the popularity of snuff-taking, she began painting miniatures for the lids of snuff-boxes, and was the first painter to use ivory for this purpose. Gradually this developed into portrait-painting, for which she pioneered the exclusive use of pastel. Prominent foreign visitors to Venice, such as the young sons of nobility and diplomats clamored to be painted by her. The portraits of her early period include those of Maximilian II of Bavaria, Frederick IV of Denmark, the 12 most beautiful Venetian court ladies, the Artist and her Sister Naneta and, August the Strong of Saxony, who acquired a large collection of her pastels.

By 1721, during her first trip abroad to Paris, her portraits were in great demand. While in Paris, as a guest of the art collector, Pierre Crozat (1661 – 1740), she painted the artist Watteau (1684 – 1721), all the royalty and nobility from the King and Regent, and was elected a member of the French Academy by acclamation. Her brother-in-law, the esteemed painter Antonio Pellegrini (1675 – 1741), married to her sister Angela, was also in Paris that year. Rosalba's other sister, Giovanna, helped her in painting the hundreds of portraits she was asked to do. Rosalba's diary of these 18 months in Paris was later published in 1793. She returned to Venice in 1721, visited Modena, Parma, and Vienna, and was received with much enthusiasm by rulers and courts.

In later life, she journeyed to the court of the King of Poland where she took the Queen as her pupil. The king made a huge collection of her works which were later to form the basis of the collection in the Altemeister Gallery in Dresden. In 1705, she was made an 'accademico di merito' by the Roman Accademia di San Luca, a title reserved for non-Roman painters. Her portraits were immensely competent, almost always consisting of a bust length pose, with the body turned slightly away and the head turned to face the viewer. She had a marvelous ability to represent textures and patterns, faithfully re-creating fabrics, gold braid, lace, furs, jewels, hair and skin, and showing off all the sumptuous life-style of her rich and influential patrons. The last years of Carriera's long life were tragic, going blind, but she outlived all her family, spending her last years in the little house in the Dorso-Duro area of Venice where she had lived all her life.

(This text is taken from the entry on Rosalba Carriera, available under GNU Free Documentation license.)

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