A. Kauffmann - Ritratto di Teresa Bandettini Landucci nelle vesti di una musa
(Coira, Switzerland, 1741 - Rome, 1807)
Ritratto di Teresa Bandettini Landucci nelle vesti di una musa / Portrait of Teresa Bandettini Landucci as a Muse, 1794
oil on canvas, 128 x 94 cm
Signed and dated on the sheet resting on the table, left side: “Angelica Ars pictam/divine Amarilli dicavit/Te tibi, paladiae [ … ] /Pignus amicitiae/carmina 1794”
Lucca, Art Collection of the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Lucca
Directed by the family to the study of dance, Teresa Bandettini devoted herself with success to that activity until 1789 when, after her marriage to Peter Landucci of Lucca, she abandoned the career as dancer for poetry. Thanks to her extraordinary talent in poetic improvisation she came into contact with some of the greatest writers of the period - including Giuseppe Parini, Vincenzo Monti, Vittorio Alfieri, Ippolito Pindemonte - and, lastly, was accepted to the Accademia d’Arcadia under the name of Amarilli Etrusca in 1794, when she moved to Rome.
The art of Bandettini to recreate “beautiful images and fantasies in one segment”, in order to provoke “a delight that is anything but ordinary” (Fornaciari 1837, p. 426), found its full recognition at the reformed Accademia dell’Arcadia that was considered as a privileged meeting place between literary culture, scientific knowledge and illuminated reformism, and where the cultured female presence was distinguished as a qualifying element. Although not Arcadian, Angelica Kauffmann fully impersonated the artistic expression of this cultural climate, elected as point of reference for the circle of intellectuals of the time, with whom she had established relations of patronage and friendship.
Within this context is inscribed the Portrait of Teresa Bandettini, probably executed in the enthusiasm of the friendly relationship and close affinity between the painter and the poetess upon her arrival in Rome, as evidenced by Giovanni Gherardo De’ Rossi who recalls, in addition, his frequent exhibitions in the house of Angelica, at the time one of the most exclusive high society salons (De’ Rossi 1810, p. 76).
The work is inscribed within a series of portraits of famous women, portrayed as muses, that the artist began to paint during her stay in London: from the early Seventies came the portrait of the painter Margaret Bingham (private collection), followed by the singer Sarah Harrop as Terpsichore (1781, private collection); during the Roman years are the portraits of Fortunata Sulgher Fantastici (1792, Florence, Palazzo Pitti), poetess and Arcadian with the pseudonym Temira Parraside. Highest expression of the intellectual role of women, these works reveal, in addition, the reciprocal creative influence that brought the artists together, which is referred to in the poetic verses inserted in the paintings to serve as a recognition of the special relationship between the painter and the poetesses, allusive to the lively debate on the superiority between the arts that still animated the end of the century.
A recent critical hypothesis has recognised in the Portrait of Emma Hart, then Lady Hamilton (1791), the pendant of the painting in question with which it shares the dimensions, in addition to the aristocratic elegance of gestures, costumes and the setting and the extraordinary vivacity and naturalness of the figure, caught in the full of her artistic fervour, in line with a Neoclassical taste of elegant simplicity and grace, which differed from both the rigour of French painting following David, and from the styl grec celebrated by Winckelmann. She became famous for her Attitudes, a series of poses of heroines deduced from classical statues and vases or from antique paintings, Emma Hart was painted by Kauffmann in 1791 in the garments of the comic muse Thalia, which seems to make a counterpoint to the effigy of Bandettini who impersonates Melpomene, muse of tragedy, in a studied and cultured correspondence that the painter had already suggested in the Portrait of Domenica Morghen and Maddalena Volpato as Muses of tragedy and comedy (1791, Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) and in the frontispiece of the VIII volume of the works of Goethe (Leipzig 1789) where both muses pay homage to the bust of the poet.