Rosalba Giovanna Carriera (Venice 1675-Venice 1757)
Pastel on paper | 56.7 x 45.8 cm (sight) (sight) | RCIN 452375
A pastel self-portrait, bust length turned three quarters right, looking at viewer. She wears a low-cut fur-trimmed dress, and a head-dress. The pastel is contained within an original Consul Smith frame.
A contemporary engraving by Giuseppe Wagner after this portrait records that the pastel was a gift from Carriera to Joseph Smith, Magnæ Britanniæ Cos. (Consul of Great Britain). This has been taken as evidence that the portrait was made at the time of Smith's appointment as British consul in 1744; while the inscription certainly does not prove this, Carriera's apparent age (which is well documented through a succession of self portraits) would date the pastel to around this time, and thus establish this as one of her last works before the onset of blindness in 1746.
The theory that the pastel was made as a gift is supported by the lack of affectation in the portrait, which would imply a friendship between artist and recipient. Smith was one of Carriera's major patrons, owning thirty-eight of her works, of which five remain in the Royal Collection. He may also have acted as an occasional intermediary between Carriera and the English travellers who, along with the French and German nobility, formed the bulk of her patronage in her native city of Venice. A respect for the sophisticated taste of the recipient is also suggested by the subdued palette and the achievement of effect through subtle variations in texture, from the smoothly blended fur to the dry crust of the lace, rather than through a more overt showiness.
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002
ProvenancePresented by the artist to Joseph Smith; from whom bought by George III, 1762
- Physical properties
Self-portrait in old age