A young lady putting flowers in her hair
A young lady putting flowers in her hair

ROSALBA CARRIERA (1675-1757)

A young lady putting flowers in her hair

c. 1730 Italy

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Carriera (1675-1757) developed the art of painting miniatures on ivory, in place of the traditional support of vellum, a fine animal skin. Although she became famous as a pastel painter, in her early career, Carriera decorated ivory snuff boxes-containers used to hold powdered tobacco taken by sniffing up the nostrils-for tourists. This miniature likely served as a lid to a snuff box, due to its elliptical shape in contrast to the oval or occasionally round shapes of most other miniatures. Although painters of ivory snuff boxes used watercolor, the same media artists used on vellum, the finished images on ivory were crude in comparison to those painted on vellum because ivory presents a greasy, non-absorbent surface, causing watercolor to run. Carriera revolutionized the art of watercolor painting on ivory through a process she termed her fondelli, or foundation. She developed a way in which to work in watercolor on ivory that emulated the soft powdery sophistication of her pastels. She used opaque gouache, essentially watercolor paint mixed with a gummy white, a combination of media which adhered to the oily surface of ivory. News of Carriera's innovation spread through Europe, and in the first few decades of the 1700s, most miniaturists abandoned vellum in favor of ivory.

There is another more detailed and finished version of this miniature in the Cleveland, Museum of Art, formerly in the collection of Edward B. Green. Perhaps this miniature is a working sketch for the miniature in Cleveland where Carriera turns the elliptical shape to a horizontal format as opposed to the vertical position show in the current miniature.
Small paint loss in a few places on the costume.
Comerford Collection at the Irish Architectural Archives in Dublin, in 2009.
The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures (Dublin, privately published, 2009), pp 7, 23 (#57) 67 (sitter #18)
Dimensions
Height 10.00 cm (3.94 inches)
Stock Code
4547
Medium
watercolour on ivory
Ellison Fine Art

Ellison Fine Art
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