Completed Continental European before 1800, Portraits: British 18th C 21 Is the sitter in this and a related version by Angelica Kauffman in Neapolitan dress, and can we name the sitter and clarify the dating of these pictures?

Topic: Subject or sitter

A version of the painting at Saltram is described there as 'a woman in Neapolitan dress'. In that painting one can see that the woman is set against the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius visible on the far shore.

Art UK adds: The NICE paintings entry for the painting at Brighton includes this note ‘It has recently been debated whether the sitter's costume is à la turque or Neapolitan peasant dress. Kauffman visited Naples in 1782 and the background is believed to represent Vesuvius. The version of the painting in Saltram, Devon, is documented as depicting a woman in Neapolitan dress. On the other hand, costume historians believe that the costume is Turkish. For Neapolitan costume, see: Baumgartel, B. (ed.), ‘Angelika Kauffman 1741–1807 Retrospektive’, Düsseldorf, pp. 198, 204; Ribeiro, A., ‘Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe’, Yale, 2002, pp. 264-72. Kauffman several female sitters in Turkish costume during the 1770s, and it would therefore seem probable that this work dates from the same decade.’

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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The National Trust has added: 'We would welcome a public discussion. The National Trust record for this picture needs work – it contains an unsubstantiated suggestion that the sitter may be Frances Hort, first wife of John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon of Saltram, who died on honeymoon in Naples in 1764. The date we give is c.1762–1764 but we are not sure this is quite right either. The picture is not mentioned in a letter by Theresa Parker (John Parker’s second wife), written in 1775, which enumerates the pictures Kauffman painted for her and her husband. It may anticipate these – and belong to Kauffman’s early Italian period (c. 1762-4) – or Theresa Parker may have omitted it from consideration, as she did the other two paintings by Kauffman that her husband had acquired on honeymoon with his first wife. It could also date from her early English period (c. 1766-7), or be later, painted after Kauffman’s return to Italy in 1782. There were contemporary precedents for this type of subject, e.g. by George James, Fragonard during his travels with Bergeret de Grancourt (1773-74), and François-André Vincent. The picture has been catalogued as a woman in Neapolitan dress since 1819; given the similarities to the James portrait we are inclined to agree.'

Jacinto Regalado,

The same background is present in both versions, including what would appear to be Vesuvius, meaning they are both set in Naples. That obviously favors Neapolitan dress. The Brighton picture, despite condition problems, strikes me as the finer version in terms of the figure, which is more delicately painted; the Saltram version looks more like a copy to me.

Andrew Quick,

As no one has mentioned it, it seems worth noting that in 2018 Raffael Vals sold a painting attributed to Antoine de Favray that depicts a woman in a near identical pose and dress. See link below.

There is obviously a connection between the two works, however indirect, and further investigation may provide a better understanding of the Brighton picture.

The Vals picture, unlike that at Saltram, is certainly not a copy of the Brighton canvas. Discovering the origin of the combined dress and pose would be most interesting in itself.

I am not a dress historian, but it seems likely that the dress in question is à la turque, rather than Neapolitan peasant.

Jimaa Alaa,

Angelica Kauffmann - age 23) In 1781, Kauffman married the painter Antonio Zucchi, who succeeded her father as her business manager.
This is what was written about a similar painting

Jacinto Regalado,

I think we need Italian, specifically Neapolitan, input regarding the costume.

Jacob Simon,



This discussion about a picture in Brighton & Hove Museums attracted five posts in its first week in June 2021, since when silence. There is another version in the collection of the National Trust at Saltram House in Devon. Hove Museum was given our picture in 1937 by Mrs Burges Watson, along with another much better known picture by Kauffmann of identical size, ‘Penelope at her Loom’, which is indistinctly signed, ‘Angelica Kauffmann/… Roma 1764’. No records were kept about the donor or the circumstances of the donation. Given the coincidence both in donor and in size, unusually large for Kauffmann, I would be looking for a relationship between the two works but this is hard to fathom. See the comparison at the link below.

On the Brighton & Hove museums website, there is a blog by Alexandra Loske, ‘Angelica Kauffman – superstar of the 18th-century European art world’, posted 16 April 2020 (link below). She studied our picture for her Art History MA at Sussex in 2006. I propose to get in touch with her.

PROVENANCE. In her blog Loske suggests that both paintings are likely to have come out of the context of the ‘Grand Tour’, having probably been commissioned by a member of the aristocracy on a visit to Italy. As Loske says, the Saltram version may have been acquired in the 1760s by John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon, and his wife Theresa, who were great patrons of Kauffmann. It is worth noting that a Mr Algernon Bowring owned two pictures, ‘Penlope and her Dog’ (a subject Kauffmann returned to several times) and ‘Angelica Kauffmann, said to be portrait of (full length)’ (see the book by Lady Manners and George Williamson, ‘Angelica Kauffmann, R.A.: her life and works’, 1924). But not our pictures, I should think.

COSTUME. Loske states:

‘Recent research has shown that the lady is most probably dressed in Neapolitan rather than Turkish garb. Kauffmann had an interest in traditional local costume from early in her career, painting several self-portraits wearing traditional Swiss-German dress. The painting could be considered a costume painting, illustrating Kauffman’s own interest in the dress of local Italians during her stay in Naples.’

I agree with this analysis. The costume worn by the woman in our picture lacks the essential elements of costume ‘a la turque’ (on which I could say more). Furthermore it is inherently unlikely that the artist would picture a woman wearing such costume with a background of Vesuvius, if indeed it is Vesuvius. The NICE paintings entry claims that costume historians believe the costume is Turkish, but unfortunately without giving a proper source.

One interesting tiny costume detail is the small ornament hanging from the necklace. It reminds me of the badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece but it is too small to make out. Could Art UK post a detail, please?

SITTER. I wonder if this picture portrays a type rather than being intended as a portrait of an individual.

DATING. If our painting was done in Naples, we should note that the artist was there in 1762, 1782, 1784 and 1785 and perhaps on other occasions. I favour an early date, either 1762, or 1764 given the date of the pair. There is a hardness to our picture which disappears in Kauffmann’s mature work.

ARTIST. This is not a typical painting by Kauffmann but given its close relationship with the documented ‘Penelope at her Loom’, I think it has to be by Kauffmann. Andrew Quick (11/06/2021) posted an image of a very similar painting to ours, attributed to Antoine de Favray but I don’t think this attribution is tenable on examination of Favray’s work. The relationship with our painting remains to be explained.

FRAME. The picture of ‘Penelope’ is housed in a rich Maratta frame. It would be good to establish whether the frame on our picture matches.

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Martin Hopkinson,

Algernon Browning might be Algernon Cunliffe Browning c. 1859-1954
Jacob does not give any date

Jacob Simon,

I have not heard from Alexandra Loske. However, I have located on the Brighton Museum website, buried deeply, the Brighton Pavilion Review dating to February 2007, with an article by Loske written in 2006, ‘Angelica Kauffman's Portrait of a Woman; oriental or occidental otherness?’ You can find a link below.

Loske makes a detailed review of the costume and to my mind convincingly identifies it as a Neapolitan rather than the Turkish. She acknowledges suggestions and related publications by Prof. Lou Taylor of the University of Brighton and by Alastair Laing, then Adviser on Paintings and Sculpture for the National Trust.

So, fifteen years before our discussion was proposed the subject was discussed in detail in a Brighton Museums publication as you can read at the link below. I think it'll be difficult to take our discussion further forward.

Jacinto Regalado,

Jacob, what does Loske say about date and sitter identity?

Jacob Simon,

Loske says "Since the Portrait of a Woman is unlikely to be an individual portrait, it is probably a costume painting, illustrating her interest in the dress of local Italians during her stay in Naples."

She states "The painting is cautiously dated 1775" without giving a reason. Since she also gives the dates of Kauffmann's visits to Naples (see my post, 4 April 2023) as rather earlier or rather later, this is unsatisfactory.

My own view is, given her visit in 1762 and given the 1764 date of the other Kauffmann of the same size and in the same collection discussed above, that a date of c.1762-4 would be appropriate. This would fit stylistically within her oeuvre. She painted two versions, as discussed above, perhaps a year or two apart.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Saltram version is dated 1762-64, and I quite agree the face is a generic one, meaning we need not look for a specific sitter.

Alexandra Loske,

Hello, happy to join this discussion, but must apologise for my delay in responding. I am currently extremely busy with other projects, but still like looking at our painting in Brighton Museum whenever I pass. My research is such a long time ago now, and I cannot claim authority on any of these matters, but happy to provide a bit more detail on our painting. Please bear with me. Greetings from Brighton and the other lady in red. Alexandra

Marcie Doran,

In her article (see Jacob 20/04/2023 13:01) Alexandra Loske suggested that the donor “Mrs. Burges Watson” was likely Mabel Harford Watson (née Underwood)(6 July 1886–23 October 1976). Mabel was the second wife of Rear Admiral Fischer Burges Watson (3 September 1884–14 August 1960) of Chichester, Sussex. The couple were married in Portsmouth in 1931 and, while he had three daughters from his first marriage, he and his second wife were childless.

A Sotheby’s auction catalogue shows that works owned by a “Mrs. M. Burges Watson” were auctioned in London in 1937. Perhaps the provenance of her works of art would let us know the name of the unknown early collector of Kauffman’s works?

Fischer’s will (drafted in 1956) does not mention specific works of art. Neither the will of Fischer’s mother, Marie Thérèse Watson (née Fischer)(d. 1918), nor that of Fischer’s first wife, Sybil Mona Caroline Watson (née Holden)(d. 1926), mentions specific works of art.

I’ve attached the “short article” from the ‘West Sussex Gazette’ of 16 September 1937 that Alexandra Loske mentioned.

Jacob Simon,

Has anyone been to the Kauffman exhibition now on at the Royal Academy? I enjoyed the show.

Unless Alexandra Loske (20/04/2023), the authority on the portrait can add to the discussion, I wonder if we can now move to a summing up?

Marcie Doran,

The NICE entry states that "this painting may possibly be identified with A Portrait of a Lady in a Greek Dress previously at Stourhead."

Frances A. Gerard's book about Kauffmann from 1893 that mentions the work 'Portrait of a lady in a Greek dress' on page 372 is at the following link.

An edition of 'Angelica Kauffmann, R.A.: her life and her works' by Lady Victoria Manners and Dr. G. C. Williamson is at the link below. It discusses the Stourhead portrait at the bottom of page 198 and the top of page 199.

Others have cited an August 1776 diary entry from Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys about works of art at Stourhead:
"I forgot to mention a sweet picture of Angelica Kauffmann's, a lady in a white and gold Turkish habit, working at a tambour".

See page 273 of that diary at the following link.

That portrait might be Kauffmann’s 'A Turkish Woman' (1773) that is reportedly at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

Jacob had discussed (04/04/2023 21:07) 'Penelope and her dog'. It is mentioned on page 179 of the book by Manners and Williamson, '"owned by Mr. Algernon Bowring". Could it not be 'Penelope at Her Loom'?

According to Gerard (1892), that work was a "pair" with a portrait of Angelica Kauffmann that he didn't think looked like her ("bearing little resemblance to her"). See the entry on page 341, including footnote 2.

Could the two works not have remained a pair?

Jacob Simon,

I propose to sum up this discussion and recommend closure in a few days. Further thoughts?

Jacob Simon,

This discussion concerns a “Portrait of a Woman” by Angelica Kauffman belonging to Brighton & Hove Museums. We are asked three things, “Is the sitter in this and a related version by Angelica Kauffman in Neapolitan dress, and can we name the sitter and clarify the dating of these pictures?” As it happens, this subject was researched at an earlier date by Dr Alexandra Loske, art historian and curator at Brighton (link in my post, 04/04/2023).

It should be noted that there is a pair to our picture in the Brighton collection, Kauffman’s better known “Penelope at Her Loom”, 1764, of the same size and with a shared provenance. Further that there is a version of our picture at Saltram (NT) dated to c.1762-64, perhaps collected in Italy (link at the head of this discussion). Note that our picture is different in composition to the one formerly at Stourhead (01/04/2024).

THE COSTUME. As Dr Loske states, research has shown that the lady is “most probably dressed in Neapolitan rather than Turkish garb”, a judgment with which I agree. As has been said, it is unlikely that the artist would picture a woman in Turkish costume against a background of Vesuvius in the picture. For a more detailed discussion, see post, 04/04/2023.

THE SITTER. The painting depicts a type, a costume piece if you like, rather than being intended as a portrait of an individual. It does not match Kauffman’s self-portraits and does not have the appearance of a self portrait.

THE DATE. If our painting was done in Naples, we should note that the artist was there in 1762, 1782, 1784 and 1785 and perhaps on other occasions. I favour an early date, either 1762, or 1764 given the date of the pair. There is a hardness to our picture which disappears in Kauffmann’s mature work.

PROVENANCE. The painting’s provenance has been explored (11/05/2023) but unfortunately this does not take one very far.

CONCLUSION. Rather than the present title, “Portrait of a Woman”, I recommend “A Woman in Neapolitan dress”, particularly because the painting is unlikely to be a portrait as such. As to the date of the picture, I recommend circa 1762-1764 on the available evidence. I suggest that the collection be approached with these recommendations and then the discussion should be closed.