Angelica Kauffman, Portrait of Louisa Leveson Gower as Spes (Goddess of Hope), 1767
49.4 x 39.6 in.
Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807) was a prominent Austrian painter. Born in Switzerland, where her father was working for a bishop, her family moved back to Austria when she was young. Her father was a moderately successful painter himself and he recognized his daughter's talent and gave her instruction. Angelica was immoderately brilliant in several areas, learning a number of languages from her mother, reading incessantly, and showing talent as a musician. However she shows the greatest kill in painting and by age twelve she was highly regarded and painting portraits of bishops and nobles. After first traveling to Milan with her father, Kauffman spent several years in Italy, becoming a member of the Academy in Florence, then having great success in Rome before traveling to Bologna and Venice. While in Rome she befriended famed art historian and archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, whom she painted in 1764. He spoke highly of her, writing of her intelligence, poise, artistic skill, and magnificent singing voice, which he said "rivals out greatest virtuosi." Kauffman became a celebrated figure in 18th century society. While in Venice she met the wife of the British ambassador, who convinced Kauffman to accompany her to England. There she became good friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and a few years later she became one of the two female founding members, along with Mary Moser, of Reynolds's Royal Academy. Eventually she moved back to Rome with her husband, where she befriended Goethe, where she continued to enjoy success and prestige. Kauffman became known for her portraits, classical scenes, and family portraits, sometimes of royal families. She also painted historical and literary scenes. One of her most celebrated pieces is her self-portrait. Louisa Leveson Gower was the daughter of the Marquess of Stafford, one of many nobles whom Kauffman painted while in London. She paints her as Spes, the Roman goddess and personification of hope, symbolized by the anchor and the flowers in her hair. There is great sensitivity and depth in this portrait. Kauffman's skill is evident in every aspect, from the soft hair and skin, to the realistic fabric, to the intense rocky background. This is one of Kauffman's numerous masterpieces.