The Tambourine Player

Watercolour with bodycolour on card, titled ‘Donn d’Albano’ lower left and signed and inscribed ‘Roma 1853’ lower right
Image size: 19 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches (50 x 34 cm)

This is a full-length portrait of an Italian woman with black plaited hair and pendant earrings, wearing regional costume and holding a tambourine.

Carl Haag

Haag was born in Bavaria and visited London in 1847 to learn more about English watercolour painting technique, studying at the Royal Academy Schools the following year and settling in England. On a sketching trip in the Tyrol in 1852 he had a chance encounter with Charles, Prince of Leiningen (Queen Victoria’s half-brother) and Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Prince Albert’s brother), who jointly commissioned Haag to paint them in an Alpine setting as a Christmas present for Queen Victoria.

Victoria and Albert, impressed with the double portrait, then invited the artist to their residence in the Scottish Highlands, Balmoral Castle, the following autumn, to paint scenes of their lives there. His association with the British court endured for a time after Albert’s death in 1861, and there is a significant corpus of watercolours by him in the Royal Collection (including several Egyptian subjects, as Haag spent two years in Egypt and the Near East in 1858-60 and travelled again to Egypt 1873-4).