Initially trained as a lacemaker by her mother, Rosalba Carriera fully flourished as an artist after she left the bobbin behind and began to draw pastels in 1700 (see N. Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, online edition [accessed June 2020], p. 1). Her work soon became hugely popular; indeed, Rosalba can be considered one of the most famous pastellist working before 1800. Her reputation rapidly spread far beyond her native Venice. Grand Tourists visiting the Republic eagerly commissioned portraits from her; her sitters even included visiting royalty, such as King Louis XV, Elisabetta Farnese and ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charles Edward Stuart (B. Sani, Rosalba Carriera 1673-1757. Maestra del pastello nell’Europa Ancien régime, Turin, 2007, nos. 133, 156 and 362, ill.).
Rosalba’s international contacts led to her famous sojourn to Paris in 1720-1721, where she portrayed a large number of the Parisian elite, thereby popularising the pastel technique in France. The present pastel, and the one in lot 39, are prime examples from this period and display the artist’s sensitive power of observation (Sani, op. cit., 2010, p. 212, 365). They represent allegories of Spring and Autumn; the first drawn in warm red, blue and pinks which is in stark contrast with the allegory of autumn, which displays a much cooler palette primarily using green, grey and white. Bernardina Sani compares the Allegory of Spring to two pastels from 1720, one in the Musée du Louvre, Paris and the other in the Uffizi, Florence (see ibid. p. 212, and Sani, op. cit., 2007, nos. 127 and 139, ill.) and the Allegory of Autumn to a pastel in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (see Sani, op. cit.,2007, no. 122, ill.).
Pastels like the two present ones found their way into many of Europe’s grandest houses, the greatest collection of all being that of King Augustus III of Poland, who had no fewer than 150 pastels by the artist in his so-called ‘Rosalba Gallery’ (see A. Henning and M. Harald, Das Kabinett der Rosalba. Rosalba Carriera und die Pastelle der Dresdner Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, 2007, p. 7). These galleries, known at the time as ‘Galleries of Beauty’, displayed the owners’ refined taste and concept of ideal beauty. The present two pastels would not have been out of place in such a gallery, and they demonstrate the exceptional talent of one of the most intriguing artists of the 18th Century.