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Veronica Stern Telli was a successful, professional artist of the early modern period.[1] Born in Rome in 1717, she was admitted to the Academy of Saint Luke in 1742, listed as a miniaturist.

Although little is known about her early life, her personal and family relationships put her in the centre of a prestigious milieu of artists. The Sterns were a family of German artists and architects who moved to Rome where Veronica was admitted to the artistic Academy of San Luca in 1742. [2] Like many women artists of the period, her family background provided an apt foundation for her future career - her father Ignaz Stern, and brother Ludivico Stern, were an oil painters who were often employed on creating architectural schemes for interiors. As Oliver Tostman has pointed out, Telli’s career as a miniaturist was likely, in part at least, a decision governed by her sex; ‘…Renaissance and Baroque women artists were often encouraged by (male)...

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Veronica Stern Telli was a successful, professional artist of the early modern period.[1] Born in Rome in 1717, she was admitted to the Academy of Saint Luke in 1742, listed as a miniaturist.

Although little is known about her early life, her personal and family relationships put her in the centre of a prestigious milieu of artists. The Sterns were a family of German artists and architects who moved to Rome where Veronica was admitted to the artistic Academy of San Luca in 1742. [2] Like many women artists of the period, her family background provided an apt foundation for her future career - her father Ignaz Stern, and brother Ludivico Stern, were an oil painters who were often employed on creating architectural schemes for interiors. As Oliver Tostman has pointed out, Telli’s career as a miniaturist was likely, in part at least, a decision governed by her sex; ‘…Renaissance and Baroque women artists were often encouraged by (male) teachers and writers, often their fathers, to work small’. [3]

Identified and attributed works by Veronica Stern Telli are rare. Here, the miniature of an allegory of ‘Spring’ corresponds extremely closely with her known, signed works. Particularly notable are the superb three-dimensionality given to the sitter’s arm, the pointillist handling of the gum-Arabic-heavy watercolour and the bright, primary colour palette (so often faded in her known works). [4]

The composition of the present work appears to have originated from Telli herself. A popular subject of the early to mid-18th century, like her near-contemporary Rosalba Carriera, Telli produced imaginative allegorical personifications as part of her oeuvre. Given the shape and orientation of the work, it was likely originally set into a snuffbox. Interestingly, Telli has included a carnation flower, also known as a ‘pink’, held prominently by the sitter. An alternative analysis of this miniature may be that it is a portrait to commemorate the sitter’s marriage, as ‘pinks’ were symbolic of earthly love and marriage. As Telli herself married around the date this miniature was painted, it is tempting to see this as a possible self-portrait made for her artist husband.

Telli’s career also led her to paint copies after desirable Italian painters - she was often employed to reproduce paintings in miniature scale. [5] During the 1740’s, Stern is documented as working for the Catholic Stuart princes during their exile in Rome, where they employed her to produce miniatures based on larger portraits. [6] She also seems to have been well-acquainted with the highly fashionable painted Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) and made copies in miniature of his oil portraits.

Although Telli’s story is still emerging, along with new additions to her oeuvre, it is clear that she was a sought after artist working in miniature on both private and highly political imagery. Like her fellow women artists working in the early modern period, it is only now that her prominent contribution is being fully recognised and her reputation as an artist restored.

This artwork has been registered by Philip Mould and Company as qualifying as exempt from the ivory act. Please contact laura@philipmould.com if you have any further queries.

Ivory Registration: 2QGN397W


[1] Her work was recently included in an exhibition entitled ‘By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800’, which took place at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA (30 September 2021–9 January 2022).

[2] N. Fried, Translation by Elizabeth Wigfield “Die Künstlerfamilie Stern in Rom,” Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, 13, no. 2 (1920), pp. 166-173. Published by Deutscher Kunstverlag GmbH Munchen Berlin
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2...

[3] Ed. E. Straussman-Pflanzer and O. Tostmann ‘By Her Hand Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800’, Yale, 2021, p. 32.

[4] A signed but faded work by Telli, signed on the obverse, shows similarities in the handling of the sitter’s arm, as well as in the composition (sold Bonhams, Fine Portrait Miniatures, 19 November 2008, lot 37. Now listed as ‘Private Collection, Connecticut’, this work was exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum exhibition ‘By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800’, 30 September 2021–9 January 2022).

[5] See, for example, Telli’s copy of ‘The Death of Saint Francis Xavier’, c.1740-1750, watercolour on parchment, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

[6] E. T. Corp, The Stuarts in Italy, 1719-1766: A Royal Court in Permanent Exile, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 297-299. A rare of four portraits of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, 'The Old Pretender' (1688-1766); Maria Clementina Stuart, née Sobieska (1702-1735); Charles Edward Stuart, 'The Young Pretender' (1720-1788); Henry Benedict Stuart, 'Cardinal York' (1725–1807) two signed verso: Veronica Telli / né Stern / fecit anno 1748 =; one signed verso: Veronica Telli / né Stern / fecit anno 1748, were sold Sotheby’s, London, Early British Drawings, Watercolours And Portrait Miniatures, 04 December 2008, lot 104. A portrait miniature of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), circa 1745, was sold Philip Mould & Co. in 2009, showing an identical painting technique to Telli’s signed works.

E. T. Corp, The Stuarts in Italy, 1719-1766: A Royal Court in Permanent Exile, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 297-299. A rare of four portraits of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, 'The Old Pretender' (1688-1766); Maria Clementina Stuart, née Sobieska (1702-1735); Charles Edward Stuart, 'The Young Pretender' (1720-1788); Henry Benedict Stuart, 'Cardinal York' (1725–1807) two signed verso: Veronica Telli / né Stern / fecit anno 1748 =; one signed verso: Veronica Telli / né Stern / fecit anno 1748, were sold Sotheby’s, London, Early British Drawings, Watercolours And Portrait Miniatures, 04 December 2008, lot 104. A portrait miniature of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), circa 1745, was sold Philip Mould & Co. in 2009, showing an identical painting technique to Telli’s signed works.

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500 Years of British Art