Rosalba Carriera
Rosalba Carriera was a Venetian
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 painter. In her younger years, she specialized in portrait miniature
Portrait miniature
A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolour, or enamel.Portrait miniatures began to flourish in 16th century Europe and the art was practiced during the 17th century and 18th century...

s. She later became known for her pastel
Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation....

 work, a medium appealing to Rococo styles for its soft edges and flattering surfaces.


Born in Venice with two sisters, Rosalba Carriera was a prominent and greatly admired portrait artist of the Italian Rococo. Her family was from the lower-middle-class in Venice, and as a child, she began her artistic career by making lace
Lace is an openwork fabric, patterned with open holes in the work, made by machine or by hand. The holes can be formed via removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric, but more often open spaces are created as part of the lace fabric. Lace-making is an ancient craft. True lace was...

-patterns for her mother, who was engaged in that trade. Others claim that she received initial instruction in oil technique from the undistinguished Venetian painter Giuseppe Diamantini
Giuseppe Diamantini
Giuseppe Diamantini was an Italian painter and printmaker of the Baroque period, active mainly in Venice.He was born in Fossombrone. His early training is not well documented, but he arrived in Venice by c. 1650. He is known to have designed the title page of a libretto for the opera L’inganno...

As snuff
Snuff is a product made from ground or pulverised tobacco leaves. It is an example of smokeless tobacco. It originated in the Americas and was in common use in Europe by the 17th century...

-taking became popular, Carriera began painting miniature
Miniature (illuminated manuscript)
The word miniature, derived from the Latin minium, red lead, is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple decoration of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment...

s for the lids of snuff-box
Decorative boxes
Though the purpose of a box may be purely functional, boxes can also be very decorative and artistic. Many boxes are used for promotional packaging, both commercially and privately...

es, and was the first painter to use ivory
Ivory (color)
Ivory is an off-white color that resembles ivory, the material out of which the teeth and tusks of animals is made. It has a very slight tint of yellow....

 for this purpose. Gradually, this work evolved into portrait-painting, for which she pioneered the exclusive use of pastel. Prominent foreign visitors to Venice, young sons of the nobility on the grand tour and diplomats for example, clamoured to be painted by her. The portraits of her early period include those of Maximilian II of Bavaria
Maximilian II of Bavaria
Maximilian II of Bavaria was king of Bavaria from 1848 until 1864. He was son of Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.-Crown Prince:...

; Frederick IV of Denmark
Frederick IV of Denmark
Frederick IV was the king of Denmark and Norway from 1699 until his death. Frederick was the son of King Christian V of Denmark and Norway and Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel .-Foreign affairs:...

; the 12 most beautiful Venetian court ladies; the "Artist and her Sister Naneta" (Uffizi); and August the Strong of Saxony
Augustus II the Strong
Frederick Augustus I or Augustus II the Strong was Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania ....

, who acquired a large collection of her pastels.

By 1721, during Carriera's first trip to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, portraits by her were in great demand. While in Paris, as a guest of the great amateur and art collector, Pierre Crozat
Pierre Crozat
thumb|265px|[[Rembrandt]]'s painting [[Danaë |Danae]] from Crozat's collection.Pierre Crozat was a French art collector at the center of a broad circle of cognoscenti; he was the brother of Antoine Crozat....

. She painted Watteau
Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement...

, all the royalty and nobility from the King and Regent downwards, and was elected a member of the Academy by acclamation. Her brother-in-law, the esteemed painter Antonio Pellegrini, married to her sister Angela, was also in Paris that year. Pellegrini was employed by John Law
John Law
John Law may refer to:*John Law *John Law DD was an English mathematician*John Law *John Law , Hong Kong film director...

, a British financier and adventurer, to paint the ceiling of the Grand Salle in Law's new Bank building.

Carriera's other sister, Giovanna, and her mother, were members of the party in France. Both sisters, particularly Giovanna, helped her in painting the hundreds of portraits she was asked to execute. Carriera's diary of these 18 months in Paris was later published by her devoted admirer, Antonio Zanetti, the Abbé Vianelli, in 1793. Her extensive correspondence has also been published. She returned to Venice in 1721, visited Modena
Modena is a city and comune on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy....

, Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

, and Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, and was received with much enthusiasm by rulers and courts.

In later life, Carriera made a long journey to the court of the Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. The works she executed there were later to form the basis of the large collection in the Altemeister Gallery in Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

. In 1705, she was made an 'Accademico di merito' by the Roman Accademia di San Luca
Accademia di San Luca
The Accademia di San Luca, was founded in 1577 as an association of artists in Rome, under the directorship of Federico Zuccari, with the purpose of elevating the work of "artists", which included painters, sculptors and architects, above that of mere craftsmen. Other founders included Girolamo...

, a title reserved for non-Roman painters.

Still hugely popular and in great demand (and, in effect, the wage-earner of her family), Carriera returned to Venice. Her portraits were highly competent and flattering, almost always consisting of a bust-length pose, with the body turned slightly away and the head turned to face the viewer. Carriera had an unusual ability to represent textures and patterns, faithfully re-creating fabrics, gold braid, lace, furs, jewels, hair and skin and show-casing the sumptuous, material life-style of her rich and influential patrons.

Carriera herself was not a beautiful woman; her self-portraits depict a homely face with a large and unshapely nose. She was known, however, for the sweetness of her disposition and the neatness and propriety of her dress, but she was also prone to sadness and depression, attributed by some to the fact that she never married. In Prideaux Place
Prideaux Place
Prideaux Place is a country house in Padstow, Cornwall, England.For over 400 years, Prideaux Place has been the home of the Prideaux-Brune family. Completed in 1592, the house has been enlarged and modified by successive generations...

, Padstow
Padstow is a town, civil parish and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town is situated on the west bank of the River Camel estuary approximately five miles northwest of Wadebridge, ten miles northwest of Bodmin and ten miles northeast of Newquay...

, Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, there is a charming portrait by Carriera of Humphrey Prideaux
Humphrey Prideaux
Humphrey Prideaux , Doctor of Divinity and scholar, belonged to an ancient Cornish family, was born at Padstow, and educated at Westminster School and at Oxford....

, the archetypal gentry son pictured on his "Grand Tour," in which a love-letter from Carriera to the sitter is reputed to have been hidden behind the frame. She had many male friends and admirers of her talent, but none of them wanted to marry her.

The last years of Carriera's long life were tragic, as her sight, which might have been damaged by miniature-painting in her youth, deserted her completely, and she went blind
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

. She endured two unsuccessful cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

 operations. She outlived all her family, spending her last years in a little house in the Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro is one of the six sestieri of Venice, northern Italy.Dorsoduro includes the highest land areas of the city and also Giudecca island and Isola Sacca Fisola...

sector of Venice where she died.

Sources of information

Consult the biographies of Sensier, with translation of her diary (Paris. 1865), Von Hoerschelmann (Leipzig, 1908), and Malamani (Milan, 1910).

Sensier's (highly annotated) version of her journal of two years in Paris (1720-1721) is available on-line in French:

Other projects

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