JMW Turner the source
                                                                                     Lost Kauffmann
                              Angelica Kauffmann painting
Love Punished 
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777 -
                              mentioned in the Kauffmann literature but never pictured?

Art World’s Dirty Little Secret
r malcolm setters / graham setters

"William Edwards took particular interest in an oval painting, oil on canvas by Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807). It was at one time in the collection of the legendary British art collector of pen-making fame, Joseph Gillott.[1] His attraction was mainly because of the neoclassical character and the high finish of its two beautiful figures, Venus and Cupid. Of all Kauffmann’s works it is probably the most disturbing for modern viewers. Venus is seen punishing Cupid with a cat-o’-nine-tails. A tear appears from beneath the blindfold as Venus clenches the squirming baby by the wing. Fear not, it is merely allegorical; when the painting was painted Angelica was enduring a hurtful love infatuation over the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Her unrequited love during those few years led her to paint a number of pictures dealing a measure of revenge to the culprit of her grief – Cupid.  

Dr. Colin B. Bailey and Dr. Martin Butlin admired the painting during separate visits to Penticton. Both thought it too good for Angelica, and Martin Butlin, former Keeper of Historic British Art at the Tate Gallery, even suggested off-hand that it be attributed to Simon Vouet (1590-1649). Italy, where both artists had studied, was somewhat the cradle of both their styles, and considering that this particular picture wanders away from Kauffmann’s normally staunch neoclassicism toward a more circular rhythm, the connection with Vouet is vaguely understandable. As for the general quality of Kauffmann's work, one must remember that her talents were often usurped in the service of decorating furniture for the architect and designer Robert Adam; a production that noted collectors such as James Orrock were hungry to possess, but certainly one that gave Kauffmann little opportunity to express her talents as a great artist.

The unimpassioned asexual Venus is still the typical Kauffmann man-woman model that Cyrus Redding kibitzed with Turner over on one of their sketching trips.[i] If one were to replace the lilies with more hair, Apollo might then be seen as the cruel perpetrator of the ghastly deed pictured. Joshua Reynolds’s edict encouraging expressionless faces had certainly become emblematic in this exhibition painting—a painting that he was surely to see. And in keeping with an effort to impress the subject of her love—Sir Joshua—Kauffmann would have produced the best she could while at the same time sending this colourful message to her idol. Sadly, the romance was never kindled and England lost one of its stars to Italy after she married Antonio Zucchi in 1781.

Sir Joshua Reynolds: Hope Nursing Love
(note the similarity of the bow and quiver)

It is clear
that Angelica's allegorical wit had certain influence on Joshua. In one of his exhibited paintings, Hope Nursing Love, one must contemplate what appears to be a reply to Angelica's own not so subtle gesture.

The subject of Kauffman's work is of course up to interpretation; a lighter and more formal interpretation of what was taking place with Angelica at the time is presented by Wendy Wassyng Roworth as follows: “Kauffmann also portrayed playfully erotic subjects, such as Cupid binding Aglaia (1774) and Love Punished (1777), from the poetry of Pietro Metastasio.” [ii]


It took the kind assistance of Jason C. Escalante at the Getty Museum to identify the Joseph Gillott signature on an inventory-label fragment on the stretcher of the painting. The Getty has many Gillott documents in its archive.


                               Turner un-discovery            "Copy" Murillo              Lost Boucher




[1] Jason Escalante, Reference Assistant Special Collections & Visual Resources at the Getty Research Institute confirmed the identity of the signature on the verso label. On the same label is his Inventory #437.


[i] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 1, 204.

[ii] Wendy Wassyng Roworth, Angelica Kauffman: A Continental Artist in Georgian England, (Reaktion Books, London, 1993), 63.

[iii] Helen S. Conant, J.M.W. Turner, (extract from Harper’s Monthly Magazine: 1878; published in Master-In-Art series by Bates and Guild Company, Boston, nov 1902), 24.