Now You See Us: 18th century portrait artist features in new exhibition

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Now You See Us: 18th century portrait artist features in new exhibition

Catherine da Costa's family fled the Spanish Inquisition to settle in London. Three centuries later, her miniature painting forms part of Tate Britain women artist show.

Self-portrait attributed to Catherine da Costa. Pic: Wikipedia
Self-portrait attributed to Catherine da Costa. Pic: Wikipedia

Tate Britain is featuring the work of an 18th century Jewish artist in its latest exhibition.

“Now you see us, Women artists in Britain 1520-1920′ includes a miniature portrait by Catherine da Costa, lent by Jewish Museum London.

Born in London to a Sephardi family, da Costa (née Mendes), 1679-1756, was the first noteworthy female Anglo-Jewish artist.

Her Portuguese parents fled the Spanish Inquisition and settled in London; her father Fernando, having converted to Roman Catholicism, was doctor to both King Charles II and Queen consort Catherine of Braganza.

Miniature portrait by 18th century artist Catherine da Costa which features in Tate Britain exhibit.

Whilst baptised at Somerset House and with Braganza as her godmother, Catherine was given the Hebrew name Rachel. She studied painting under English portait artist Bernard Lens III, which inspired her to specialise in miniature portraits. Her work, ‘Imaginary Portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots’ is housed at Ham House in Surrey and a full length watercolour of her father hangs in Bevis Marks synagogue in central London.

The portrait of her son, Abraham da Costa, one of six children born to Catherine and her husband Moses, features in the exhibition.

On display until October, the display features more than 200 works by 100 different women creatives, following their journeys to becoming professional artists.

The exhibition sheds light on how these artists championed equal access to art training and academy membership, breaking boundaries and overcoming many obstacles to establish what it meant to be a woman in the art world.

Tate Britain

Catherina da Costa died on 11 December 1756 and was buried in the Mile End Jewish cemetery.

Jewish Museum London is currently operating as a Museum without Walls, lending items and curating displays across the country in a wide range of venues.

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