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Self-portrait of the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1794 (signed and dated)

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

1470 x 2150 mm

Place of origin

Rome

Order this image

Collection

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire, North, National Trust

NT 960079

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Self-portrait the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), signed on the artist's sash: Angelica Kauffn Sc. & P. Pinxit, Rome 1794. Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland, but settled in London in 1766. She was one of the most prominent English artists of the 18th century, one of only two founding female members of the Royal Academy and the last woman to be admitted until 1922. This painting, which is a very fine example of her work, was executed in Rome, where she lived with her husband, Antonio Zucchi, from 1781 until her death in 1807. It presents the artist as a kind of female Hercules, choosing not between Virtue and Vice, but between her profession as a painter, which was traditionally a male dominated field (the figure of Painting points to a far away temple, symbolising the difficulty of her journey), and a career devoted to the easier, more traditionally feminine, Art of Music. In recent years, this self-portrait has become an icon of the feminist interpretation of art history. It was acquired by the 2nd Baron St Oswald in 1908, from the collection of Mrs Strickland at Cokethorpe, to serve as a pendant to the Lockey, at the opposite end of the Top Hall (once the organ, installed in the 1820s, had been removed to Wragby Church). The 2nd Baron may have been attracted to the painting because it was thought at the time that Kauffman, rather than Zucchi, had worked with Adam on the decoration at Nostell. It remained in the Top Hall until 1939. Though it came relatively late to the collection, it is now a well known picture at Nostell. Another version, dated 1792, is in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

Provenance

In the collection of Mrs Strickland at Cokethorpe Park, Oxfordshire and thence to Mr Clement Cottrell Dormer of the same place; sale, at Knight, Frank and Rutley’s 12 November 1908, lot no. 158, acquired by Lord St Oswald for 650 guineas; purchased by National Trust on 1.12.2002 with the aid of a 75% grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Credit line

Nostell Priory, The St Oswald Collection (National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Recto: Signed and dated Rome 1794

Makers and roles

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), artist

Exhibition history

Angelika Kauffman and the Music, Angelika Kauffmann Museum, Schwarzenberg, 2012

References

Brockwell 1915 Maurice Walter Brockwell, Catalogue of the Pictures and Other Works of Art in the Collection of Lord St Oswald at Nostell Priory, London 1915, cat. no. 2, plate XIII

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