New to the Ackland: A Portrait by Angelica Kauffman

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A woman with dark hair, light skin, and a white dress stands by an urn in a garden

Swiss-born, Italian-trained artist Angelica Kauffmann is among the most accomplished female painters of the eighteenth century, making the Ackland’s purchase of her Portrait of Mary Pocklington of Winthorpe Hall a significant addition to the collection. Kauffmann enjoyed international patronage and created history paintings and portraits for royalty, aristocracy, and well-to-do members of society. After studying in Rome for a period, she became a founding member of the Royal Academy in London in 1768, one of only two female artists to do so.

Kauffmann depicts Mary Pocklington (1743/50-1808) in a wooded landscape wearing a white dress with a red sash, holding a book in her right hand and leaning against a plinth bearing an urn. The portrait was likely painted before Mary’s marriage to Roger Pocklington (1734-1810) sometime around 1774 during Kauffmann’s stay in England from 1766 to 1781. The portrait epitomizes the Grand Manner style of painting espoused by Kauffmann’s colleague and first president of the Royal Academy, Joshua Reynolds, who believed subject matter based on the tenets of Classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance represented the noblest kind of art. Portraiture was considered below history painting in the hierarchy of subjects at the time, but by combining the sitter with references to the Classical past, such works could be elevated to a more esteemed level. Such is the case in Kauffmann’s portrait in which the sitter wears an antique-style costume and appears beside a potted urn based on antique models.

This is the first painting by Kauffmann to enter the collection and one of only a handful of objects by female artists active before the nineteenth century in the Ackland’s holdings.

Image Credit: Angelica Kauffmann, Swiss, active in England, 1741-1807, Portrait of Mary Pocklington of Winthorpe Hall, c. 1774, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 in. (91.4 x 71.1 cm). The Peck Collection, 2022.17.2. Photograph courtesy of Leland Little Auctions.

Your Responses

  1. Is it on display currently?
    Angelica Kauffmann was one of the
    Exceptional Women Artists 1550-1750 included in an Olli class last semester, taught by Carolyn Woods.

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