Hearts Through History Romance Writers


by | March 17, 2012 | 14 comments

 “The whole world is Angelicamad.”

The above-quote, attributed to the Danish envoy to London or an engraver (depending on who you ask) perfectly describes a superstar of Georgian England.

Angelica Kauffman (1741 – 1807) was already famous on the Continent before her arrival in England.  She was the daughter of an itinerant painter who early on recognized her talent and took her to Italy where she became a child prodigy famous in portraiture but also in music.  Her mother taught her several languages, among them English, and this brought her to the notice of wealthy British patrons on the grand tour.  She was invited to England by the ambassador’s wife.  Shrewdly, the painter sent an ambassador of her own ahead–a portrait she executed of the island’s most famous actor, David Garrick.

England was prostrate at her feet.

“She had burst upon the hemisphere of painting a luminous wonder.”

Angelica was in the right place at the right time.

Her greatest patron and friend in England came to be Sir Joshua Reynolds.  He called her Miss Angel and painted her, which she soon returned the favor.

She was not, as far as we know, a member of the Blue Stockings Society in England.  However, her presence lent credence to the movement that women should be educated and take part in cultural and scientific advancements, as opposed to knitting and gambling.

“Nothing was more absurd than a twelve-year-old boy being more learned than a forty-year-old woman.”

Such artificial constraints surely led to the artist’s entanglement with an adventurer.  She was trapped into marrying a fraud, a terrible embarrassment that nearly led to her downfall as a professional artist.  Without the help of her prominent male friends, including Sir Reynolds, she might have become a permanent prisoner of the legal disability imposed on females, an injustice as insupportable as it is ironic.  She finally obtained a separation from the so-called Count de Horn who later died, freeing her to marry the renowned Italian painter Antonio Zucchi (1728 – 1795).

She became an original signatory to the establishment of Britain’s Royal Academy, one of only two femals.  Along with Reynolds, Kauffman exercised an extraordinary amount of influence on painting in England—unusual for a woman of her time.  Perhaps this led to a variety of attacks on her character, one of them coming from another member of the Academy who despised neo-classicism.  He painted the Conjurer depicting Sir Reynolds as a magician creating a variety of paintings in the classical form, one of them allegedly Kauffman portrayed in the nude.

Naughty man!

Undaunted, Kauffman continued her work.  She was best known for history painting, a lucrative style much sought after in academic circles.   She also travelled abroad, where her style was even better appreciated.  Other great artists, notably Goethe, were added to her circle of close friendships.  Eventually Rom ewas her final destination, although her work was still displayed at the Academy in Britain.

Like Raphael’s funeral, Kauffman’s memorial was notable for the paintings that were borne before her body on its way to burial.  Directed by the famous sculptor Canova, Miss Angel’s final exhibition was worthy of its inspiration.

Life imitating Art.

See more on neo-classicism in England at www.angelynschmid.com


  1. Ella Quinn

    You always find such interesting subjects. Thank you so much for this post.

  2. Ally Broadfield

    What an interesting lady. It’s not surprising she was resented by some of her male counterparts. Thanks for the great post, Angelyn.

  3. Anna Kathryn Lanier

    Great post. I’m glad that this artist wasn’t allowed to mildew in the corner.

    • Angelyn Schmid

      No mildew here–thanks for commenting!

  4. Deidra Alexander

    She sounds like a fighter, an inspiring woman.

    • Angelyn Schmid

      hanging in there–thanks, Dee–

  5. Sasha Summers

    So sad that she was almost ‘lost’ because of her first marriage. Even being who she was, her fate relied significantly upon her marriage. How lucky we are that she had champions to free her.

    • Angelyn Schmid

      Men who freed her—the sexiest one can imagine

  6. Ashley Kath-Bilsky

    Once again, a wonderful and fascinating piece of historical research! I love that Miss Angel was instrumental in the realization that women should be educated and that they should be allowed to take part in “cultural and scientific advancements”.

    • Angelyn

      I think Georgian England came as a surprise to her. A dichotomy: adulation on the one hand and disapproval on the other. Nothing in her experience on the Continent had prepared her for the English, I’ll warrant. Thanks for visiting, Ashley.

  7. Donna Hatch, historical author

    I didn’t realize the Royal Academy admitted a woman that early. She sounds like a real inspiration to women who wanted more than knitting 🙂

    • Angelyn

      She was one of two founding members–Mary Moser, the flower painter, was the other one. 1768 is the year. Thanks for stopping by, Donna.



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