Ideals for sale: ‘Ideal Portraits’ and the display of national identity in the nineteenth-century Austrian Empire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


In the multinational Austrian Empire, artists and their works travelled between different regions, from one national context to the next. This essay examines this complex network through the lens of the female 'ideal portrait', a genre ubiquitous at mid-nineteenth-century exhibitions. Tracing the trajectories of two Venetian painters - Natale Schiavoni and his pupil, Giacomo Marastoni - and investigating their career strategies, it argues that the transnational aspects of the two artists' careers were mirrored in the way that their works engaged with national identity and international artistic forms. Visualizing ethnic difference in the form of idealized and sensualized female bodies, ideal portraits offered a way for artists to shape their own national 'brands' within the multinational art scene of the Empire. At the same time, the playful interchangeability of the women's costumes allows for an interpretation of ideal portraits as subverters of 'organic' conceptions of national identity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-303
Number of pages30
JournalArt History
Issue number2
Early online date6 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Art history, nationalism, Austrian Empire, Venice, Vienna, Hungary