miniatures on ivory
From 13 October 2023 to 09 January 2024
Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico – Museo del Settecento Veneziano
Curated by Alberto Craievich
The fame of Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757), the most celebrated female Italian artist in 18th-century Europe, knew no bounds. Everyone from English lords to princes of the Empire agreed on the excellence of her portraits. She was perhaps the only artist to find unanimous approval among the most sophisticated connoisseurs of international high society and the traditional, conservative Venetian aristocracy. For almost half a century, the courts of Europe sought her services. Yet despite frequent invitations and generous
proposals, aside from three visits: to the court of the King of France, to the Duke of Modena, and to the Emperor’s court in Vienna, she preferred to remain in Venice, where she worked ceaselessly throughout her life.
She is credited with the most discerning portrayals of the personalities of 18thcentury Venetian and European society, and her contribution to French portraiture is fundamental. She was an incomparable interpreter of the ideals of grace and elegance of an entire era, a social milieu that has now entered the collective imagination as our idea of the ancien régime.
In addition to devoting herself to pastel portraiture, Rosalba Carriera was an outstanding painter of miniatures on ivory; in fact she pioneered this genre, elevating it from a craft to a true art. Using an innovative technique, she succeeded for the first time in bringing the fluid, vibrant brushstrokes of painting on canvas to tiny ivory supports. Her success was immediate. There was no visitor to Venice who did not aspire to have a miniature portrait made by Rosalba. Today, however, these small images are rare, in fact their number is much smaller than her pastel work.
It is to Rosalba Carriera the miniaturist that this retrospective is dedicated, with thirtysix works on display, together with pastels, documents, drawings and prints from the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, as well other institutions and private collections. The exhibition offers a very rare opportunity to admire these works of extraordinarily delicate refinement, now classic examples of Rococo art, in the year that marks the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the artist’s birth.