Angelica Kauffman was one of the most internationally celebrated artists of the 18th century. 'Miss Angel', as she was known, was highly skilled and versatile, producing history paintings, portraits, landscapes and decorations for aristocratic clients and royalty throughout Europe. We are delighted to be offering three works by Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) in our forthcoming sale.
Angelica Kauffman RA (Swiss, 1740-1807)
And Nathan said unto David, 'Thou art Man';
The prophet Ahlijah foretells to the wife of King Jeroboam the death of her son Abijah
a pair, both signed 'Angelika Kauffman/Pinx' l.l., bearing the artist’s original descriptive label verso, oil on canvas
42.5 x 47.5cm (2)
Painted in Rome, these two works depict biblical scenes from the Old Testament relating to two kings of Israel. In the first work, King Jeroboam’s wife is shown in distress after being told by the prophet Ahlijah of her son’s impending death. The second depicts the moment that the prophet Nathan points an accusing finger at King David, who was guilty of plotting the murder of his wife’s former husband, Uriah, so that he could marry her. Both scenes are enacted with high drama and demonstrate Kaufmann’s compositional prowess.
Initially, these works were part of a set of four, which were commissioned in 1791 by one of Kauffman’s greatest patrons, George Bowles. Bowles owned as many as fifty works by Kauffman and supported her throughout her career.
Angelica Kauffman RA (Swiss, 1740-1807)
Portrait of Louise Henrietta Campbell (1772-1829), seated full-length, in a white dress holding a pencil and drawing
oil on canvas, 75.5 x 63cm
Lady Louise Henrietta Campbell was married to James Scarlett (1769-1844). They were introduced through her brother, Peter Campbell, who studied with Scarlett at Trinity College, Cambridge. Scarlett was a fierce barrister, a leader of the Inner Temple and served as a Member of Parliament. In 1834, after time in office as attorney-general he became Chief Baron of the Exchequer and was made a peer the following year, he was the first Baron Abinger.
The couple had five children and appear to have lived happily together. Scarlett’s memoir eulogised Lady Louise Henrietta, an excerpt reads, ‘I lived with her in uninterrupted comfort and happiness from the time of our marriage to the month of March 1829 and have lived ever since to lament her loss’ (Scarlett, 1877).
While traditionally identified as a portrait of Louise Henrietta Campbell, Dr Bettina Baumgärtel notes that Campbell didn't marry James Scarlett until 1792. The portrait type is typical of Kauffman‘s 1770s paintings executed in London. The prototype for the interior with a female seated figure enjoying a fine pastime, dressed in a white gown whose delicate fabric is embroidered with small fleur-de-lis of gold thread, is Kauffman's "Morning Amusement" in the Hermitage, Saint Petersbourg, from the early 1770s. One would date the portrait accordingly, were it not for the sitter's life dates. Since she was only born in 1772 and the portrait probably shows a woman of at least twenty, the portrait would have to have been painted in Italy in the early 1790s. Since this type of portrait only occurs in England and not in the artist's late work, it is Baumgärtel's opinion that the question of the sitter's definite identification must remain open.
Angelica Kauffmann (Self Portrait) | Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Bettina Baumgärtel takes a closer look into the life and works of one of Britain's most pioneering female artists.
Today it strikes us as strange that during the lifetime of Angelica Kauffman, in the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, the declaration of human rights and the civil principle of the equality of all people was not self-evidently extended to women. It seems all the more courageous to us now, that women in the eighteenth century demanded equal rights and ventured into the public sphere with groundbreaking achievements in art and culture.
Without question, one of these women was Angelica Kauffman, whose astonishing rise from child prodigy to career woman continues to fascinate to this day. Scarcely another eighteenth-century female artist better epitomises the emergence of women from their state of 'unfreedom' than the Swiss-born painter, draughtswoman and etcher. At a time when evermore women artists were extricating themselves from the seldom acknowledged, anonymous work they performed in their family workshops, and daring to embark on careers as professional artists, Kauffman was seen as a shining example – for her contemporaries as well as for subsequent generations of women. She trained in Italy, resided in London and Rome, and secured commissions from an international aristocratic and upper-class clientele. The cosmopolitan Kauffman was methodical in building her career as one of the most sought-after history painters and portraitists. In the process, her persona provided ample material for novels, myths and legends – stories that still resonate today.
Greatly admired in her time, Angelica Kauffman’s works are held in high regard today and are found in collections around the world. Her unusual career, her wide-ranging œuvre, and her formative influence on many areas of life contradict the common prejudice that women had little chance of breaking through the glass ceiling to recognition and success. Kauffman’s extraordinary life and work tell a different story.
She created more than 1,000 mythological, historical, religious and allegorical paintings as well as numerous portraits, wonderful drawings and about 40 etchings by her own hand, which are sought-after by collectors throughout Europe and the USA, and increasingly also in Australia, East Asia or South Africa. Most of the artist's works, however, are still to be found in the country houses and city mansions of Great Britain, especially in London, where the young artist rose to fame.
One of today’s collections in London, in which numerous works by the artist had been lovingly assembled over the past thirty years, is now parting with some of the paintings. This opens up a good opportunity for the growing circle of Kauffman enthusiasts to expand their collections.
Angelica Kauffman lived in London from 1766 to 1781, and it was there that she first flourished as an artist. She injected new ideas into British art and with her scenes of medieval Britons played a role in the revival of history painting there as well as being an active contributor to the Homer and Shakespeare renaissance.
Kauffman benefited primarily from the patronage of her own sex during her early days in London. Her first portrait clients were young, modern women from the upper echelons of society and included Anne Seymour Conway, later Damer, who was to become a sculptress in her own right. Subsequently the young artist developed a new type of portrait depicting her female clients as creative personalities, as in the portrait offered here of Louisa Henrietta Campbell. Kauffman shows her as a draughtswoman with a drawing pencil and a drawing in her hand.
Image-making by catering to celebrities was a shrewd strategy even in those days, and Kauffman was able to raise her own social status considerably simply by surrounding herself with famous people. She won the support of emperors, queens and nobles all over Europe, among them Empress Catherine the Great of Russia or Joseph II, Emperor of Austria. Her first patrons in London included influential members of the royal family such as the Dowager Princess Augusta, mother of George III, and her art-loving daughter-in-law, Queen Charlotte, who assured Kauffman of a successful launch in London. This royal patronage led to some large-format portraits of female rulers. Having one’s likeness painted by this talented young artist was suddenly all the rage.
Her most important goal, however, was to gain recognition as a history painter, so it was as a history painter that this founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts presented herself at its annual exhibitions. Kauffman contributed some eighty paintings to its annual shows between 1769–97, and while at first these were all history paintings, she later added literary and allegorical subjects and portraits.
George Bowles of Wanstead was her best customer in England and soon owned one of the largest Kauffman collection on the British Isles. Two from his collection are offered here, the biblical scenes David and Nathan and Ahlijah and Abijah, which belonged to the Bowles collection from 1791 and therefore have a correspondingly famous provenance. Two scenes of the set of four now belonging to the Bündner Kunstmuseum, in Chur, Switzerland.
In London, Kauffman also began to focus on developing a new subgenre of single-figure history or allegory in small-formats, such as the series offered here. The two pairs are painted for the publisher Jane Matthew in London, while Angelica was living in Rome. The single figures are symbols of abstract concepts and are characterised only by a few attributes. The counterpart to the virtue of modesty is the vice of vanity. The muse of Memory is counterpart to the muse of Meditation. Matthew’s investment in buying the little images paid for itself quickly, as she had them printed as stipple engravings. She quickly made a profit as the demand for Kauffman’s works was so overwhelming that, according to the Danish ambassador Gottlob Friedrich Ernst Graf Schönborn, the saying “the whole world is angelica mad” was on everyone’s lips.
Studio of Angelica Kauffman RA (Swiss, 1740-1807)
oil on copper
19 x 15cm and similar, oval (4)
In London, Kauffman began to focus on developing a new subgenre of single-figure history or allegory in small-formats. The present subjects were executed for the printer Jane Matthew, in London, c.1789 while Kauffman was in Rome, and from which stipple engravings were reproduced. It is likely that this lot was a subsequent version produced from Kauffman's studio. Painted as two pairs, the single figures are symbols of abstract concepts and are characterised only by a few attributes: the virtue of 'modesty' is the counterpart to the vice of 'vanity'; The muse of 'Memory' is counterpart to the muse of 'Meditation'.
After Angelica Kauffman
Telemachus and Mentor on the Island of Calypso
watercolour and crayon on paper
30 x 39cm
After the original painting in the collection of Wien/Vaduz, Liechtensteinische Sammlungen.
Tuesday 4 April
Highlights from our forthcoming sale of Old Master, British & European Art sale, including the Angelica Kauffman works are currently on view in our London gallery. The exhibition also includes a fine seascape by Eugène Boudin, a selection of portraiture, and works by Edward Atkinson Hornel and John Brett. Works will be on view until March 24th.
London Gallery | 15 Cecil Court | London | WC2N 4EZ
Monday-Friday 11am-5.30pm | Saturday 1pm-5pm
The full sale will be available to view at our Stansted Mountfitchet Auctions Rooms
Cambridge Road | Stansted Mountfitchet | Essex | CM24 8GE
Sunday 2 April - 10am-2pm | Monday 3 April - 9.30am-5pm