Skip to main content
Select Source:

Kauffmann, Angelica (1741–1807)


KAUFFMANN, ANGELICA (17411807), Swiss neoclassical painter. The Swiss-born painter was considered a child prodigy, achieving attention for her works as early as age eleven. She was trained by her father, Johann Josef Kauffmann, whose family accompanied him to Italy, where he executed decorative schemes for churches. The Kauffmann family lived in Como, Milan, Parma, Florence, and eventually Rome, where Angelica copied the works of famous Old Masters. These included her richly colored version of Domenichino's Cumaean Sibyl (1763, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.) that was probably purchased by the 4th duke of Gordon, one of her many aristocratic patrons. Others included Catherine the Great of Russia, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, and John Parker II, Lord Boringdon.

During her first stay in Rome (17651766), Kauffmann became an integral part of the circle of artists that gathered around the German theorist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who served as librarian to Cardinal Albani. This group, which included Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Benjamin West, Sir Nathaniel Dance, and Giambattista Piranesi, was instrumental in promoting a neoclassical stylistic approach in art that remained fashionable in both Europe and America well into the nineteenth century. Kauffmann, in fact, was one of the first artists to paint in a neoclassical style and one of few women to gain fame from historical paintings. Her classically inspired historical works include Venus Directing Aeneas and Achates to Carthage (1768, The National Trust, England, Saltram collection); Venus Persuading Helen to Accept the Love of Paris (1790, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia); Zeuxis Selecting Models for His Picture of Helen of Troy (1778, Brown University, Providence, R.I.); and Sappho (1775, John and Mabel Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida).

It is believed that Kauffmann used self-portraits in her representations of Helen and Sappho, as well as many more of her historical figures, since they often resemble her. This may be judged by comparing them to her identified self-portraits, such as the one she contributed to the famous de Medici self-portrait collection at the Uffizi (1787, Uffizi Gallery, Florence). Looking much like a classical goddess, Kauffmann wears a white muslin dress, belted just below the bodice. It is secured by a cameo that, according to Louise Rice and Ruth Eisenberg, represents the battle between Minerva and Neptune for control of Athensa battle significantly won by the female goddess. Kauffmann's stylistic approach combines the linearity and order of neoclassicism with a pastel lushness characteristic of the English rococo. This is not surprising since Kauffmann spent from 1766 to 1782 in London, where she was named one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Art (1768). She painted a portrait of the academy's first director, Sir Joshua Reynolds, in 1767 (The National Trust, England, Saltram collection). Reynolds praised Kauffmann's talent, but there were many who criticized her weak rendering of anatomy. It was difficult for a woman to gain skill in this area because she was generally barred from drawing nude models.

Kauffmann was skillful enough in her historical works to be invited to contribute to the decorative scheme of Somerset House, a building designed by William Chambers to house the Royal Academy. Kauffmann's contribution included four oval compositions entitled Invention, Composition, Design, and Color using iconographic references from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia or Moral Emblems (1611). These works are now located at Burlington House, London. She was also asked to participate in a scheme to decorate the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, although this was never realized.

Kauffmann had many admirers in both her personal and professional life. Contemporaries praised her beauty, talent, intelligence, and wit. Not surprisingly, she attracted a number of suitors, which included Reynolds, Dance, and the early Romantic painter Henry Fuseli. She rejected the attention of these artists to marry a Swedish rogue named Brandt, who charaded as the Count de Horn. After his death (1767), she married the Italian artist Antonio Zucchi and returned with him to Rome in 1782. There she was an active member of the Academy of St. Luke and maintained a studio that was often visited by fellow artists. These included Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, who visited Kauffmann while in exile after the French Revolution. Kauffmann died in Rome on 5 November 1807. After a magnificent funeral, she was buried in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. Three years after her death, her good friend Giovanni Gherardo de Rossi published his Vita di Angelica Kauffmann (Life of Angelica Kauffmann), which serves as a major source of information with regard to her life and career.

See also Reynolds, Joshua ; Women and Art.


Primary Source

De Rossi, Giovanni Gherardo. Vita di Angelica Kauffmann, pittrice 17411807. Florence, 1810.

Secondary Sources

Adam, Malise Forbes, and Mauchline, Mary. "Neoclassical Furniture in the Palace of Pavlovsk with Designs after Angelica Kauffmann." Apollo 155, no. 479 (Jan. 2002): 4246.

Gerard, Frances. Angelica Kauffmann. London, 1892.

Manners, Victoria, and G. C. Williamson. Angelica Kauffmann, R. A.: Her Life and Her Works. London, 1924. Reprinted New York, 1976.

Mayer, Dorothy. Angelica Kauffmann R. A. 17411807. Gerrards Cross, U.K., 1972.

Pomeroy, Jordana. "The Uncommon Genius of Angelica Kauffmann." Women in the Arts 15 (Winter 1997): 24.

Rice, Louise, and Ruth Eisenberg. "Angelica Kauffmann's Uffizi Self-Portrait." Gazette des Beaux Arts 117 (March 1991): 123126.

Rosenthal, Angela. Angelika Kauffmann: Bildnismalerei im 18. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1996.

Roworth, Wendy Wassyng. Angelica Kauffmann: A Continental Artist in Georgian England. London, 1992.

. "Biography, Criticism, Art History: Angelica Kauffmann in Context." In Eighteenth Century Women and the Arts, edited by Frederick M. Keener, pp. 209221. New York and London, 1988.

Kathleen Russo

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kauffmann, Angelica (1741–1807)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . 20 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Kauffmann, Angelica (1741–1807)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . (November 20, 2017).

"Kauffmann, Angelica (1741–1807)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved November 20, 2017 from

Kauffmann, Angelica

Angelica Kauffmann (äng-gā´lēkä kouf´män), 1741–1807, Swiss neoclassical painter and graphic artist. From her youth she was known for her artistic, musical, and linguistic abilities. She went to England, where she enjoyed success as a fashionable portrait painter and decorator. A protégée of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kauffman was one of the original members of the Royal Academy. She often decorated houses designed by the Adam brothers. After her marriage in 1781 to the Venetian painter Antonio Zucchi, she lived in Italy, where she flourished in artistic and literary circles. Reynolds, Winckelmann, Goethe, and Garrick commissioned her to paint their portraits. Representative works include Religion (National Gall., London); Self-Portrait (Staatliche Museen, Berlin); and the etchings of L'Allegra and La Pensierosa. The British Museum has a collection of her drawings and prints.

See study by Lady Victoria Manners and G. C. Williamson (1924).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kauffmann, Angelica." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Kauffmann, Angelica." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (November 20, 2017).

"Kauffmann, Angelica." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 20, 2017 from