French, 1771 ‑ 1835
Portrait of Celeste Coltellini, Madame Meuricoffre (1760‑1829), about 1790s
Oil on canvas
26 3/4 × 19 1/2 in. (67.9 × 49.5 cm.)
Gift of Mrs. Berry V. Stoll 1983.10
What’s the Backstory?
Admired as the “Pearl of Naples,” Celeste Coltellini was a famed mezzo-soprano renowned for her acting abilities. She made her debut at La Scala opera house in Milan in 1780 and performed in Venice, Naples, and Vienna. Her moving performances as the tragic lead in Giovanni Paisiello’s Nina elicited shouts from tearful audience members hoping to console her character as she descended into madness. In this portrait, Celeste’s impish smile, twinkling eyes, and mass of untamed curls convey the captivating personality of a woman once described as “lively, spiritual, intelligent, and full of playfulness.”