Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Rosalba Carriera: Artistic Style Created by a Woman

In a time when women artist were ignored in the art world, there was an Italian woman, Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757), who was a famous pastel painter. Her fame was even greater than her pastels for she is considered the first woman in history to initiate a new style of art. At the time, it was called goût moderne. Today, we refer to the style as "rococo."



Carriera was born in Venice to a government clerk and a lace maker. Her early works were lace patterns, but sometime later she began painting miniature portraits for snuffboxes. 


 The beauty of her miniatures and the loose, spontaneous

brushstrokes of this new style led to fame and acceptance at the very highest levels. In addition to creating a style of painting, there were many more "firsts" from this talented and innovative artist.


 She painted finished portraits with pastels on paper - at a time when pastels were considered ideal for sketching only.  She promoted the use of tempera on ivory instead of using vellum. She was such a good artist that she was accepted into the French Royal Academy even though it had previously banned women. Here is a portion of a quote on one of her portraits:

".... Her delicate handling of the pastel medium beautifully captured the Rococo rage for pretty powdered faces and flowing fabrics. In A Young Lady with a Parrot, Carriera used a “dry-brush” technique, dragging her pastel lightly over a contrasting color, to suggest the gauzy material draped across the young lady and clear, wet-chalk accents to realize the lady’s floral hairpiece and jewelry."

In a time when women were only allowed certain crafts - none of which were considered for earning a wage, Carriera made a very fine living from the commissions she received from monarchy, wealthy patrons and collectors throughout Europe. The fame and demand for her portraits allowed her to be the sole support of her self, her mother and her unmarried sister! Needless to say, she inspired many other women artists. 


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