Rosalba Carriera

(Italian, 1673–1757)


Rosalba Carriera

Born in Venice, Rosalba was the eldest in a family of three daughters. The details of her artistic training are not known and remain a topic of speculation. By the age of thirty, she had established an internationally successful studio for the production of miniature portraits and mythological scenes on ivory, which were popular gifts and mementos. In the early eighteenth century, Rosalba began working in pastels, a medium that was not widely used independently at the time. In September 1705, she was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, a testament to her increasing renown. Prince Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, (the future King Augustus III of Poland), sat for Rosalba in 1713 and amassed a collection of more than one hundred of her pastels in Dresden, to this day the largest collection of Rosalba pastels globally. In 1720, at the invitation of the French banker and art collector Pierre Crozat, Rosalba traveled to Paris, where she recorded in pastel the likeness of many prominent members of French society, from King Louis XV to her fellow painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. In October of that year, she was admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, the first foreign-born woman artist to receive such an honor. Following her return to Italy, Rosalba worked for Rinaldo III d’Este in Modena and, in 1730, for the empress Wilhelmine Amalie in Vienna. Her eyesight began to deteriorate in the 1740s and by the 1750s, despite multiple surgeries, she had lost her sight. Rosalba never married and died at the age of eighty-four, leaving an estate ten times larger than that of the famous painter Canaletto. She was buried in the church of San Vio, in Venice.


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