Angelica Kauffman, Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris

Angelica Kauffman (1741 - 1807): Neoclassicism (1760s - 1850s)

Angelica Kauffman, a prominent figure in the world of 18th-century art, played a pivotal role in the transition from Rococo to Neoclassicism. Her life and work are a testament to the changing artistic trends of her time. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating journey of Angelica Kauffman, exploring her origins, education, artistic style, and, most importantly, her 20 notable and famous paintings that showcase her mastery of Neoclassicism.

Early Life and Family Background

Birthplace: Angelica Kauffman was born on October 30, 1741, in Chur, Switzerland. Her birthplace in the heart of the Alps would later influence her artistic subjects, as landscapes and nature would become integral elements of her work.

Family Background: Angelica was the daughter of Johann Joseph Kauffman, a painter, and Maria Cleophea, a talented musician. Growing up in an artistic environment, she showed early promise as a prodigious artist. Her father recognized her talent and provided her with essential early training.

Education and Training

Angelica Kauffman's education and training played a pivotal role in shaping her career as a prominent Neoclassical artist. She received her initial training from her father, who was a skillful muralist. At a young age, she displayed an astonishing aptitude for drawing and painting. Recognizing her extraordinary talent, her family moved to Milan, Italy, where she was exposed to the rich art and culture of the Italian Renaissance.

In Milan, Angelica studied under prominent artists, including Francesco Guardi and Antonio Zucchi. Her exposure to classical art and history during this period laid the foundation for her later Neoclassical works. In 1754, the Kauffman family relocated to London, where Angelica further honed her skills and gained recognition in artistic circles.

Art Style: Rococo and the Transition to Neoclassicism

Angelica Kauffman's early artistic style was influenced by the Rococo movement, characterized by ornate, whimsical, and often pastoral themes. Her mastery of Rococo style earned her considerable acclaim as a portraitist and history painter. Some of her notable Rococo works include portraits of British aristocrats and scenes from mythology.

However, as the 1760s unfolded, a new artistic movement began to sweep Europe - Neoclassicism. This movement sought inspiration from the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Angelica Kauffman, ever adaptable and forward-thinking, seamlessly transitioned into Neoclassicism. Her ability to combine the grace of Rococo with the classical ideals of Neoclassicism set her apart as a pioneer of this new style.

20 Notable/Famous Paintings

1. Self-Portrait Hesitating Between Music and Painting (c. 1794)

In this self-portrait, Angelica contemplates her dual passions – music and painting – reflecting her versatility as an artist.

2. Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi (c. 1785)

A powerful portrayal of maternal love and virtue, this painting depicts Cornelia proudly showing her sons as her greatest treasures.

3. Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris (c. 1780)

This work captures the moment when Venus persuades Helen to elope with Paris, an iconic scene from Greek mythology.

4. Telemachus and Mentor in the Isle of Calypso (c. 1780)

A scene from Homer's "Odyssey," this painting depicts Telemachus and Mentor on the island of Calypso, showcasing Kauffman's command of classical themes.

5. Portrait of Joshua Reynolds (c. 1777)

Kauffman's portrait of the renowned portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds highlights her skill in capturing the essence of fellow artists.

6. The Finding of Moses (c. 1771)

A biblical scene featuring the discovery of Moses in the bulrushes, showcasing Kauffman's ability to blend religious narratives with Neoclassical aesthetics.

7. The Sorrow of Telemachus (c. 1776)

This emotionally charged painting depicts Telemachus lamenting the absence of his father, Odysseus, beautifully conveying the theme of longing and nostalgia.

8. Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus (c. 1781)

An exquisite portrayal of Ariadne's abandonment on the island of Naxos, this work captures the emotional turmoil of the mythological character.

9. The Muse of Painting (c. 1782)

A representation of the Muse of Painting, this painting embodies Kauffman's commitment to the arts and her identification with artistic muses.

10. The Judgement of Paris (c. 1768)

A classic Neoclassical theme, this painting captures the moment when Paris selects the most beautiful of the goddesses – Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena.

11. The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (c. 1779)

A dramatic rendering of the Greek tragedy, this work portrays the sacrifice of Iphigenia to appease the gods during the Trojan War.

12. Portrait of Goethe in the Roman Campagna (c. 1787)

This portrait of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the Roman Campagna showcases Kauffman's talent in capturing the essence of literary figures.

13. Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia (c. 1788)

A historical and literary masterpiece, this painting depicts Virgil reading his epic poem to the Roman Emperor Augustus and his sister Octavia.

14. The Education of Achilles (c. 1780)

A touching portrayal of Chiron, the centaur, educating the young Achilles, reflecting Kauffman's skill in illustrating moments of wisdom and mentorship.

15. The Departure of Regulus (c. 1794)

This painting captures the poignant moment of Regulus's departure from Rome, showcasing Kauffman's ability to convey themes of honor and sacrifice.

16. Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster (c. 1797)

Kauffman's portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster exudes elegance and sophistication, reflecting her mastery in depicting the British aristocracy.

17. Penelope Unraveling Her Work at Night (c. 1790)

A poignant scene from the Odyssey, this work depicts Penelope's nightly unraveling of her weaving, a symbol of her unwavering fidelity to Odysseus.

18. Hesiod and Muse (c. 1780)

This painting portrays Hesiod, the ancient Greek poet, receiving inspiration from a muse, illustrating Kauffman's connection to classical literature.

19. Portrait of Princess Louisa of Prussia (c. 1790)

An exquisite portrait capturing the grace of Princess Louisa, showcasing Kauffman's ability to depict royal subjects with elegance.

20. Allegory of Painting and Sculpture (c. 1782)

A representation of the arts, this allegorical painting depicts Painting and Sculpture working together, symbolizing the union of visual and tactile art forms.


Angelica Kauffman's artistic journey from Rococo to Neoclassicism is a testament to her adaptability and talent. Her ability to seamlessly transition between styles and masterfully execute Neoclassical themes has left an indelible mark on art history. Through her 20 notable paintings, we have witnessed her dedication to classical ideals and her enduring legacy in the world of art. Angelica Kauffman's contributions to Neoclassicism continue to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts to this day.


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