Portrait of an unknown Woman
Alexander Roslin was one of the most important portrait painters of Europe in the 18th century. He was born in Malmö in Sweden but soon moved into Europe to paint at various royal courts. From 1750 on he worked mainly in Paris. Here he was destined to achieve great success. He had collected letters of recommendation on his journey through Europe, including that of the Duchess of Parma, the sister-in-law of Louis XV. Soon he was admitted to the court and the Royal Academy in Paris and when he married in 1759 he was the most wanted artist in Paris for portraits. He was married to the miniature painter Marie Suzanne Giroust. Although he painted mainly French nobility and royalty, he returned to Sweden for a short period of time where he painted the royal family there. On the way back to Paris he stayed for two years in St Petersburg where he painted Catharina and several Russian aristocrats. He died in Paris in 1793.
This refined painting, for a Roslin it is relatively small, is a particularly fine specimen in a contemporary list. Presumably the painting was made in France around 1760-1770. The fashionable attire with the bow under the chin appears on more ladies' portraits from this period. Unfortunately, despite various attempts, it is not clear who the person portrayed is.
In 1938 the painting was in a Swedish collection and was presented at an exhibition organized by a Swedish daily newspaper. This exhibition, where there were over 700 portraits of unknown people, was intended to identify the people portrayed. Newspaper articles show that this was a success for various portraits, but not for this beautiful painting by Alexandre Roslin, a master who was very popular throughout Europe in the 18th century.
Namnlösa porträtt, Liljevalchs Konsthall 15-30 January 1938, no. 327 ( courtesy of E. Lundquist)