Historical Portraits Picture Archive

after a self-portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1535–1625) 

Attributed to Catherine Rachel Da Costa (1679–1756)

after a self-portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1535–1625), Attributed to Catherine Rachel Da Costa
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
54 x 77 mm (2 1/8 x 3 1/16 inches)
Sir Bruce (Stirling) Ingram O.B.E. (1877-1963); Hugh Johnson (b.1939) from 1964
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This interesting miniature is based on the self-portrait (dated 1556) by Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1535–1625), one of the first female artists of the Renaissance. The miniature has extended the original image to form a horizontal composition, possibly to fit the miniature into the lid of a box.

The technique, which would appear to date the miniature to the first quarter of the eighteenth century, displays a typical application of watercolour paint to an ivory support from this time. A watercolour gouache paint has been applied in thick layers, leaving the ivory to show through in the area of the face and hands. The technique also corresponds with another copy by da Costa, now at Ham House, in the manner of Bernard Lens the younger (1682-1740).

Lens was in fact da Costa’s teacher, and was noted as such by George Vertue, ‘One of the Da Costa Jews daughters learn't to limn of Bernard Lens for many years she having begun in 1712 continued to 1730—in this time she coppyd many pictors and limnings mostly all the remarkable pictors of Fame in England painted by Rubens, Vandyke and other masters which Mr Lens her instructor had copyd, all furnished a Room and are said to be done by herself which makes a very good collection for a Lady's Cabinet.’

Da Costa was the earliest known English Jewish artist. As well as painting copies in miniature, she painted portraits of family and friends, including her father (1721) and ten-year-old son, Abraham da Costa (1714). She was married to her cousin, Anthony Moses da Costa (1667/9–1747), a prosperous Sephardi merchant in 1698.
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