The Wallace Collection

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An Unknown Lady in an Italian Dress
  • Rosalba Carriera (1675 - 1757)
  • An Unknown Lady in an Italian Dress
  • Italy
  • ca. 1710-1720
  • Miniature
  • Painted on ivory
  • Image size: 9.8 x 7.5 cm
    Frame size: 11.9 x 9.8 cm
  • M310
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The Venetian Painter Rosalba Carriera was one of the crucial figures in early eighteenth-century painting, both for the quality of her works and for her introduction of pastel painting and miniature painting in ivory into the mainstream of European art. She is recorded as a pastellist from 1704 onwards but in the first decade of the eighteenth-century was mainly active as a miniature painter. Later in her career, miniatures seem to have become less frequent; new miniatures are mentioned in her diary in 1726 and 1727 but seem to have become exceedingly rare afterwards.

    This female portrait is a good example of Carriera’s work as a miniature painter. It shows her outstanding ability to endow her sitters with a fashionable elegance using a harmony of pale colours and an unequalled lightness of touch. Doubts about the attribution and state of preservation of the miniature have been voiced, without obvious reason. While the work has been linked to an engraving from 1778 by Francesco Bartolozzi after a self-portrait, a comparison of the sitter with documented self-portraits of Carriera show no particular resemblance. The sitter of the miniature must thus remain anonymous.

    Her dress is Northern Italian in style and can be dated to the second decade of the eighteenth century. As it was not unusual for tourists to sit for portraits in local clothing, we cannot be certain the sitter was Italian.