Matilde Malenchini portrait by Vincenzo Camuccini

On this day in history: painter Matilde Malenchini born

History of Italy News

Born on 3rd December 1779 in Livorno, Tuscany, the accomplished painter Matilde Malenchini is celebrated for her depictions of church interiors. However, her artistic journey took a turn towards portrait painting later in life as a means of financial sustenance following the conclusion of her lengthy relationship with Belgian writer Louis de Potter.

Matilde, born into the Meoni family, entered into matrimony with painter and musician Vincenzo Francesco Malenchini at the age of 16. Despite their eventual separation, she retained his name throughout her lifetime. In 1807, seeking artistic enrichment, she enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence under the mentorship of Pietro Benvenuti. To hone her skills and support herself, she meticulously copied works of old Italian and Dutch masters in the Uffizi Gallery.

In 1811, Matilde received a four-year stipend from Elisa Bonaparte, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. This financial support enabled her to study at the Pontificia Accademia romana delle belle arti di San Luca in Rome. During this period, she formed connections with notable figures, including the French Governor of the Papal States, General Francois de Mollis, who became a significant patron, purchasing 18 of her paintings. With his assistance, she established a studio in the convent of Trinità dei Monti.

Matilde’s prolific years in Rome, marked by collaborations with Academie Francaise students, including Antonio Canova and Vincenzo Camuccini, culminated in her appointment as a Professor of Merit at the Accademia di San Luca in 1815. Notably, Camuccini immortalised her in a portrait during the same year.

Read: On this day in history – Titian

A complex personal life

Her complex personal life intertwined with a profound relationship with Louis de Potter, and their attempts to annul Matilde’s previous marriage encountered complications with the Roman Curia. The subsequent years saw her return to Florence and assume an honorary professorship at the Accademia.

Portrait of Louis de Potter by Malenchini
Louis de Potter

Matilde’s connection with de Potter endured through various trials, political upheavals, and geographical relocations. Eventually, their relationship concluded in 1826, and she turned to portrait painting to sustain herself financially.

In 1855, Matilde spent time in prison following her conviction for pushing one of her maids out of a window after she caught her stealing. The ruling was overturned, only to be reinstated in 1857. One of Matilde’s final works is a depiction of the prison interior in Florence.

She passed away in 1858 in Fiesole, Tuscany, at the age of 78, leaving behind a legacy of artistic accomplishments and a life intricately woven with the challenges and triumphs of her time.

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