Rosalba Carriera - inv. 320
Graphics and Books
The identity of this noble gentleman is unknown. Placed three-quarter face, he is wearing a pale brown chamber robe, a very fashionable colour in the eighteenth century, which reveals a slip of his embroidered silk tailcoat underneath. His gaze is direct, serious and rather melancholic. The background is neutral to concentrate attention on the sitter’s face.
The painting dates to Rosalba Carriera’s fully mature phase. She was a Venetian artist who worked initially on miniatures, then finding acclaim as a fashionable portrait painter, especially after her stay in Paris in about 1720. With her pictorial style, fully Rococo and decidedly avant-garde with respect to local portrait painters, the artist adhered to the ideals of grace, elegance and sophistication of contemporary society. Her painting appears new, fresh, bright and light of touch. Her portraits were much requested by both Venetian aristocrats and illustrious foreigners staying in the city, and by the great courts of Europe.
What strikes one most in this work is the material, almost tactile, quality of the wig with its evanescent, vaporous effects, as though just powdered. This feeling is reinforced by Carriera’s skilful use of pastel: she was one of the greatest masters of this technique, which gives the impression that the image is melting away in the light.