Found Artist: Maria Anna Angelika Kauffman

My schooling back ground is art, studio art. I’m always drawn to art at any brocante or antique shops we travel to, and it’s exciting to ‘discover’ a new artist. Since we acquired two rare stipple engravings from the late 18th century featuring her work recently, I was excited to learn more about her! Let’s discover her together: Found Artist Maria Anna Angelika Kauffman. She was a trailblazer!

Maria Anna Angelika Kauffman, known simply as Angelica Kauffman in English, was a Swiss Neoclassical painter with a successful career both in London and in Rome. During her time, it was exceptional for a woman to be recognized and successful as a painter {or anything else!}

Angelika was born in Switzerland in 1741, a year later her family moved to Italy. Her father, Joseph Kauffman was a fairly poor man, but a very skilled muralist and painter, he often traveled for his work. He taught Angelika, and she was his assistant as they moved through Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Angelika spoke German, Italian, French and English.

By the time Angelika was 12, she was known as a painter, and nobles and bishops sat for their portraits with her. She was also talented as a musician and singer, but choose to focus on art as a priest told her the opera was a dangerous place for a young girl and filled with seedy people. {!!}

When Angelika was 16 her mother died, and her father moved the family to Milan. At 21 Angelika became a member of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, where she discovered Neoclassical painting. After moving to Rome in 1763, the young painter became a favorite of the British community there, painting portraits and considered a great favorite.

The Kaufman family moved around Italy, from Naples to Rome, Bologna and Venice, while she painted she also studied the Old Masters. In every place she was very popular, both for her talent and her charm. At age 24 her work appeared in England in an important exhibition of the Free Society of Artists and she moved to England.

Lady Wentworth, the wife of the British ambassador, convinced Angelika to come to London with her, one of the first paintings she completed in London was a portrait of David Garrick. Lady Wentworth’s rank opened society to Angelika, and she was well received, the royal family especially showing her great favor. Her firmest friend, however, was Sir Joshua Reynolds, he painted her in 1766, a compliment she returned by her Portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The artist identified herself primarily as a history painter, an unusual designation for a woman artist in the 18th century. History painting was considered the most elite and lucrative category in academic painting during this time. Its subject matter was the representation of human actions based on themes from history, mythology, literature, and scripture. This required extensive learning in biblical and Classical literature, knowledge of art theory and practical training that included the study of anatomy from the male nude. Women were denied access to such training, especially the opportunity to draw from nude models; yet Kauffman managed to cross that boundary. Rumor has it that Angelika studied plaster casts of statues since she was barred from seeing actual male models.

The artist was a skilled portraitist, landscape and classical painter. Her original work was engraved by masters. She was, along with Mary Moser, one of two female painters among the founding members of the Royal Academy in London in 1768. Both her paintings and engravings are highly collected, they don’t appear on the market often.

After moving back to Rome in her later years, she continued at intervals to contribute to the Royal Academy in London, her last exhibit being in 1797. After this she produced little, and in 1807 she died in Rome, being honored by a splendid funeral directed by the well-known Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova.

In the early 1900’s, her work hung in grand homes, galleries, and museums – Hampton Court {portrait of the duchess of Brunswick}; The National Portrait Gallery, Paris, at Dresden, in the Hermitage at St Petersburg, in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich, in Kadriorg Palace.

While her original paintings hang in major museums around the world, Angelika Kauffman is also beloved for the numerous engravings from her designs by master engravers Schiavonetti, Francesco Bartolozzi and  Gabriel Scorodomoff. For us to have acquired two of these engravings is a rare find!

Images of paintings courtesy of The Met.

You can see both works of art here >


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5 thoughts on “Found Artist: Maria Anna Angelika Kauffman”

  1. Lidy, what exciting finds! I love learning from you, my friend. Thank you for this lovely post!

  2. Thank you Sarah, it’s what I really love about antiques, they make me want to learn all about the who, what, and when of things! I love history! xo

  3. Dear Lidy, incredibly interesting,the background information of these beautiful works of art. Always nice to learn something new from you.

  4. Denise Carlson

    Congratulations on such a special find, her work is stunning. Love it!

  5. Sharon Crigger-Stokan

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this artist and seeing her beautiful works of art. Thank you for sharing her remarkable history with us!

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