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Giuseppe Macpherson (1726-c. 1780)

Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665) c.1772-80

7.0 x 5.6 cm (sight) | RCIN 421330

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  • Elisabetta Sirani was born in Bologna, the daughter of the painter Giovanni Andrea Sirani. She was a prolific female painter, draughtswoman and etcher. In addition to activity as a painter (she compiled a list of nearly 200 of her paintings), she also produced at least 10 original etchings. Her drawings are listed in several Bolognese inventories and Count Federico Beroaldi's collection contained more than 200 in 1695. The Royal Collection holds a number of her drawings. Sirani was the first female artist in Bologna to specialise in history painting. Apart from 15 portraits, all her paintings treated religious, historical, allegorical or mythological themes. In 1657, she received her first major public commission in Bologna from Daniele Granchi, prior of the Carthusian church of S. Gerolamo della Certosa. She produced a number of large canvasses for churches in Bologna and other cities between 1655 and 1664 as well as small devotional paintings for private patrons. The Allegory of Justice, Charity and Prudence was painted in 1664 for Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici. She recorded that he rewarded her with a cross of 56 diamonds. More than 10 women artists trained with her before her early death at the age of 27.

    This miniature is one of the collection of copies of 224 self-portraits by artists in the Uffizi Palace, Florence, that Lord Cowper, the art collector and patron, commissioned Giuseppe Macpherson (1726-1780) to paint. He presented the miniatures to King George III in two batches, in 1773 and 1786. Macpherson followed the original self-portraits quite closely, but copied only the head and shoulders. He inscribed the artists' names on the backs of the miniatures – several differ from those in the modern Uffizi catalogue, notably: Bazzi, Bellini, Campi, Annibale Carracci, Gabbiani, Masaccio, Metsys, Moroni, Pencz, Licinio, Schiavone and Spada. None of the miniatures is signed, apart from Macpherson's own self-portrait, which is inscribed: Giuseppe Macpherson / Autore della serie (Giuseppe Macpherson / Author of the series).Macpherson was born in Florence, the son of Donald Macpherson, a footman in the service of Alexander, 2nd Duke of Gordon. He was a pupil of Pompeo Batoni and painted miniatures and enamel portraits in Italy, France and Germany, finally settling in Florence. A James Macpherson is recorded in London and Paris in 1754 but it is not certain that this is the same person. He was described in 1776 as having a special talent for painting on enamel and as being 'almost the only painter in Europe who possesses this art to perfection'. He had a distinguished client list which included some of the crowned heads and dignitaries of Europe. In 1778, he was invited to add his own self-portrait to the famous painters in the grand duke's collection as it 'would do honour to Florence to enrich the collection with a work which shows that we still have some men of true merit' according to Giuseppe Pelli, director of the Uffizi at the time.

    Provenance

    Presented to George III by Lord Cowper

  • Medium and techniques
    Measurements

    7.0 x 5.6 cm (sight)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Lucia Torelli Casalini, previously identified as