Ellis Cornelia Knight

Angelica Kauffman, 30 Oct 1741 - 5 Nov 1807

Ellis Cornelia Knight

Angelica Kauffman 30 Oct 1741 - 5 Nov 1807


Cornelia Knight (1757-1837), a talented amateur artist and writer, was the daughter of Sir Joseph Knight, Admiral of the Blue. Kauffmann painted this portrait in Rome as a gift for Cornelia's mother. It was identified from a description in Lady Knight's journal: ‘Cornelia has been drawn half-length, seated with a pencil in her hand, books beside her, and the beginning of a drawing of a column for the first naval battle. She is dressed in white, with a purple mantle and a purple riband in her hair. On her girdle Madame Angelica had placed a cameo of the head of Minerva, but we got her to alter it, and put in a medallion of Angelica's head, lettered with her name.' Following her mother's death, Cornelia returned to England in 1799 with Nelson and the Hamiltons. Kauffman depicts her holding a brush, with a drawing of a rostral column, a monument to celebrate naval victories. Marcus Flaminius, her novel of ancient Rome, is prominent on the table. She is dressed in the fashionable neo-classical style of the 1790s: in a high-waisted, muslin dress, her hair in Grecian ringlets, held off her forehead by a headband. The cameo clasp was originally a head of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, alluding to Cornelia's accomplishments, but - since this was not a commission, but a painting of one artist by another, her friend - Kauffman was persuaded to alter it into a self-portrait in profile, lettered with her name. Kauffman was Swiss, but spent much of her working life in Rome, painting commissions for Englishmen on the Grand Tour. From 1766-1781 she lived in England, doing decorative paintings for country houses, and in 1768 she became a founder member of the Royal Academy

Display Label

Grand Tour and Grand Style The Influence of Travel Improvements in European travel during the 1700s had a wide-ranging impact on British culture. A particularly significant influence was the Grand Tour, which became almost obligatory for young gentlemen. Grand Tourists were led across Europe by tutors to study art, history and politics for two or three years. The Grand Tour focused on Italy, particularly Rome, and often incorporated new archaeological sites such as those at Herculaneum and Pompei, near Naples. Ancient antiquities were heavily trafficked across Europe and continental works of art flooded into Britain. A period of especially active collecting took place between the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 and the rise of Napoleon in the 1790s. As more artists and designers also visited the continent their work became increasingly informed by travel. The serious themes of classical antiquity and European art led to a new departure in painting called the Grand Style. This championed classical, historical or literary subjects, and inspired radical changes in portraiture and landscape. Widespread interest in Greek and Roman remains also fostered fresh interpretations of ancient designs by pioneers of decorative art such as Josiah Wedgwood.

Object Name

Ellis Cornelia Knight

Creators Name

Angelica Kauffman

Date Created



Frame: 127cm x 109cm
Canvas: 96cm x 80cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G4] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 4
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