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A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Emma Gaggiotti Richards (1825-1912)

A Self-Portrait Signed and dated 1853

RCIN 408920

Cumberland Art Gallery, Presence Chamber, Hampton Court Palace

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Despite exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy and receiving patronage from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, very little is known about Emma Gaggiotti Richards beyond what can be gleaned from birth, death and marriage records. She was born in Rome in 1825 where her father, Camillo, was Minister of War, and spent much of her youth in Ancona, on the northeast coast of Italy. In 1849, Gaggiotti married Alfred Bate Richards, an English barrister-at-law, and spent the next five years living and working in London.

Queen Victoria probably commissioned this self-portrait as a gift for her husband, having seen the original at the Royal Academy in 1851. Here, Gaggiotti clearly fashions herself as a professional, working artist; the tools of her trade, including a mahlstick used to steady the hand when working at an easel, are clearly visible, and she fixes the viewer with a look of steely determination. That Queen Victoria wanted to own a version of this self-portrait, is perhaps the greatest testimony to the high regard with which both she, and Prince Albert, held the artist.