Venetian Hours: Venice in Blue, by Rosalba Carriera
Rosalba Zuanna Carriera was born into a modest Venetian family in 1675, but her world was not devoid of images, since her paternal grandfather was a painter and her mother a lacemaker. Her father was steward of the Procurator Bon, equivalent to a clerk.
Forever conscious of the family’s lack of means and therefore of dowry, her mother is said to have ensured that her three daughters learned Italian, French and Latin, as well as lacemaking, hoping to marry them into good families.
As a child, she often drew pictures in the margins of her schoolwork, so her interest in art started at a young age. She played the violin and the harpsichord.
Engraver Pierre Jean Mariette wrote that Carriera was influenced by French painter Jean Steve, who she met in Paris at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture, the royal academy of painting and sculpture, on October 26, 1720, and painted portraits of Antoine Watteau and Louis XV when in Paris.
Although she painted in oil and earned a living copying the great masters, her true artistic innovations lay in using tempera to paint miniature portraits on ivory for the lids of snuff boxes, and later in her miniature pastel portraits. This was before the days of photographs, and people carried these snuff boxes with portraits in their pockets as we carry photos in our wallets of loved ones today.
Rosalba painted mainly Rococo-style portraits of women and children, usually busts, but her portraits of men were considered too feminine. Augustus III of Poland, was her greatest patron and sat for her in 1713. He collected over 150 of her pastels.
Women painters of her time were not seen as professional artists, so Rosalba encountered difficulties in pursuing her career. She was often offered payment in kind for her work, such as gloves and hand-embroidered sachets.
Carriera had one, possibly two, operations for cataracts in 1749, but went definitively blind from complications shortly afterwards, dying in deep depression in 1757.
I am not an art historian, simply a lover of art. If you find errors in my research and writing, please be so kind as to inform me.