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Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807)
Henrietta Laura Pulteney
circa 1777
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Henrietta Laura Pulteney, the Earl of Bath's only daughter, is about 11 years old. She is portrayed while picking flowers in a landscape. Described as an 'indefatigable dancer' she is wearing a white cap topped by a dark green feather and a lace-trimmed gown of sheer white fabric. Her costume may reflect her personality but can also be seen to reflect the change in attitude towards children at the end of the 18th century, which allowed them to be less like miniature adults. The setting of the portrait and Henrietta's white and flowing dress may allude to the child's natural innocence and purity. However, the pink sash tied around her waist may also suggest that Henrietta is on the cusp of becoming a young woman.

Henrietta became Baroness Bath in 1792 and Countess of Bath in 1805. She was known as a colourful and independently minded personality who frequently ignored social conventions and etiquette.

Does the portrait show us what Henrietta was like as a child?
Who decided what she was to wear and what she was to do when posing for the portrait?
The artist was known for her mythical and allegorical paintings. Could she in part be representing Henrietta as a mythical figure in this portrait? The pink sash, the picking of flowers and the white dress painted with small specks of paint that could represent embroidered details as well as suggesting sparkling stars are all associated with Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers, youth, spring and fertility. They could also represent ‘turquerie’, a popular form of fancy or masquerade dress inspired by the East.
Ask the class what mythical figure they would want to be depicted as in a portrait, what clothes they might wear and what ‘props’ or attributes they might carry?

Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) was a child prodigy, producing her first commissioned painting before the age of 13. She was influenced by Correggio and the Carracci family and copied their works in galleries as part of her artistic training. She became a highly regarded and popular painter of her time, treating most of her attractive and finely drawn subjects in the sentimental fashion typical of the 18th century. As a testament to her remarkable success, she was in 1768 chosen to become a founder member of the Royal Academy, London.

This portrait is an unusual representation of a full-length picture on what would normally be the size of canvas for a head and shoulder portrait. Do you think this adds to the intimate quality of the painting and how it fits its representation of childhood?

Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807)  Henrietta Laura Pulteney   circa 1777
Materials and technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 122 x 96.5 cm
Holburne Museum: 1996 / 5
Childhood
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