Work Nymph from Apollo's Retinue
Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century
Jeune fille tenant une couronne de laurier, nymphe de la suite d'Apollon
RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Urtado
Prints and Drawings
Semi-nude with a pink scarf, the nymph leans slightly to the left, pointing with one hand to the crown of laurel she holds in the other. Following her admission to the Académie on October 26, 1720, Rosalba sent this reception piece from Venice, with a letter for Antoine Coypel dated October 10, 1721: "A nymph from Apollo's retinue presenting the Académie of Paris with a crown of laurel, judging it the only one worthy of bearing it and of presiding over all the others."
An extraordinary phenomenon
Submitted on January 31, 1722 to the Académie, this pastel was officially accepted at the academy council sitting of February 28, 1722. Like Delatour's copy of the work (Saint-Quentin, Musée Lécuyer) and Mariette's letter to the artist, the article published in the Mercure de France by Mariette, Crozat, and the Abbé de Maroulle attests to the success of the work: "It encapsulates all parts of painting, in terms of the color as well as the delicacy of touch; it contains all the graces and ornaments to which a half-figure may lay claim." The delicate, finely shaded chromatic effects, the refinement obtained with the medium, the discreet elegance and, in places, psychological insight are the work of an original and subtle painter. Each of her portraits, which appear effortlessly drawn, express both a rigorous intellect and a disciplined technique. No artist working with pastel, past or present, can escape her influence.
A successful pastelist
A distinguished artist of her time, Rosalba Carriera began her career in the late 17th century thanks to the vogue for tobacco, the praises of which are sung by Sganarelle in the opening of Molière's Dom Juan. The artist decorated snuffboxes with amorous subjects and from 1698 became a much admired miniaturist. But her true reputation derived from the pastel portraits to which she devoted herself exclusively from 1708 on, a fashion she launched in France following her stay in Paris (April 1720-March 1721). She was not a beautiful woman, but her charms and gifts were recognized all over Europe, from Venice, where most of her patrons lived, to Paris, Dresden, and London. Her personal diary tells us more about her professional career. Her pastels, prepared with a sketch in ink or chalk, were widely known, as were her miniatures. The fact that only a dozen of her preparatory works have come down to us suggest that she or her heirs considered them unworthy of her art. But the few saved specimens show that, like the Venetians of her generation, Rosalba used the technique of drawing to develop and sharpen her ideas.
The correspondence between Mariette and Rosalba tells us that she often obtained her pastel crayons from Paris and that her correspondent was entrusted with the choice of colors. Mariette was a faithful admirer of the artist, and made an objective analysis of the qualities and weaknesses of her work: "I find that in the airs of her heads [of women], Miss Rosalba puts much of the manner of Pietro Liberi; they are often the same characters and have the same shapes of mouth especially, with the difference that Rosalba's heads are much better colored than those of Liberi, and that they have more freshness and more truth about them. Their fine color masks their imperfections for, it must be said, Rosalba is quite imperfect, but the same can be said of her as of Correggio: her imperfections aim high and may, I believe, be allowed her."
BibliographyMonnier G., Pastels XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles : Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins, Paris, ed. des musées nationaux, 1972.
Sérullaz A., in L'an V : dessins des grands maîtres, cat. exp. Paris, Musée du Louvre, 23 juin-26 septembre 1988, Paris, Ed. de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1988, n 8.
Sani B., Rosalba Carriera, Turin, Umberto Allemandi & C., 1988, fig.116, p.294 n 141.
Scarpa Sonino A., Omaggio a Rosalba Carriera : miniature e pastelli nelle collezioni private, Venise, Pro Venice international, 1997.
Rosalba Giovanna Carriera
Nymph from Apollo's Retinue
Pastel on paper
H. 61.5 cm; W. 54.5 cm
Admission piece for the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, submitted on January 31, 1722, accepted on February 28, 1722; Collection of the Académie
Young girl Holding a Crown of Laurel
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