Listening to Art

11.10: Angelica Kauffman, The Ely Family

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume eleven, number ten: The Ely Family by Angelica Kauffman.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

In a 1993 Times Literary Supplement book review, Marcia Pointon wrote:

[Angelica] Kaufmann has always seemed a romantic figure. Nineteenth-century biographers made little of her art and much of her life: a high-earning woman artist, beautiful and successful, a bigamous marriage, alleged proposals from some of the most famous men of her day, seduction by the revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat.… Her life … certainly did not lack interest, not least because it involved an unending stream of commissions and an astute ability to maintain a degree of independence unusual for women in the eighteenth century.

Kaufmann was born in Switzerland and lived mostly in Italy before moving to England in 1766, the year she turned twenty-five, already a very successful painter. There she was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts—she and Mary Moser, another founder, were the only women members until the 1920s.

In 1771 and 1772 she spent time in Ireland, where she made this portrait. About that trip, I quote from Angelica Kaufmann, R.A. 1741–1807 by Dorothy Moulton Mayer (p. 74):

Angelica had successfully surmounted her matrimonial and financial troubles; she was admired, courted, and successful, and it was in this state that she accepted the invitation of Lord Townsend, the Viceroy, to pay a visit to Ireland. The journey to Ireland in those days was almost as hazardous and uncomfortable as that from the Continent, but whatever sea-sickness Angelica endured would have been recompensed by the beauty of the approach to Dublin through its wonderful bay, only to be compared to that of Naples. The city too presented such an agreeable air that she must have felt immediately at home.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 287 cm wide by 243 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Ely Family by Angelica Kauffman, recorded at the National Gallery of Ireland, in Dublin, on 15 August 2022.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Ely Family by Angelica Kauffman. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Mayer, Dorothy Moulton. Angelica Kaufmann, R.A. 1741–1807. Gerrards Cross, UK: Colin Smythe, 1972.

McEvansoneya, Philip. “The Black Figure in Angelica Kauffman’s Earl of Ely Family Group Portrait.” History Ireland 20 no. 2 (March/April 2012): 26–28.

National Gallery of Ireland. “The Ely Family.” National Gallery of Ireland.

Pointon, Marcia. “Limning Politely.” The Times Literary Supplement 4684 (08 January 1993): 16.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Angelica Kauffman,”