KAUFFMANN, Angelica
(b. 1741, Chur, d. 1807, Roma)

Portrait of a Woman

1795
Oil on canvas, 131 x 103 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Signed at left: Angelica Kauffmann. Pinx: Romae a° 1795.

Angelica Kauffmann was one of the most celebrated artists of her time, winning high praise from Goethe (whose portrait she painted), Herder and other literary figures. Her popularity was not entirely due to the fact that by the end of the eighteenth century women had been to some extent emancipated by the Enlightenment, for her surviving pictures, particularly her portraits, show that she was an exceptionally gifted artist who consistently and effectively expressed in her works the approach of the new era of Neoclassicism. Most of her historical compositions are based on classical and literary themes, while her portraits are characterized by lucidity of form, noble poses and cool, limpid colours.

This portrait of a middle-aged woman in front of her dressing-table was for many years believed to be a self-portrait, but comparison with authentic self-portraits disproves this. The inscription tells us that the portrait was painted in Rome in 1795, so it is more likely to have been a likeness of Princess Esterházy, for whom Angelica Kauffmann is known to have worked at that time.