New Research Spotlight on Emma Novello by UBP Fellow Rebecca Wade

Emma Aloysia Novella, Richard Cobden, oil on canvas, 1861 © University of Leeds

Emma Aloysia Novella, Richard Cobden, oil on canvas, 1861 © University of Leeds

This online Research Spotlight provides a new resource on the portrait of the politician Richard Cobden by the artist Emma Aloysia Novello. Painted in Paris in 1861, the portrait materialises the alliance between Cobden and the Novello family that contributed to the Paper Duty Repeal Bill; part of the ultimately successful campaign against ‘Taxes on Knowledge’. Her brother (Joseph) Alfred Novello’s role in the Society for the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge is represented in the existing literature but Emma’s involvement has not been examined, despite her also having met and corresponded with Cobden. Her reputation has also been obscured by the artistic potential and early death of her brother Edward Petre Novello and her status as an unmarried woman. The Research Spotlight foregrounds Emma Novello’s agency and makes visible her significance to histories of British portraiture and politics in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, revealing her to have been part of an important European network of artists, an advocate for artistic training for women and a regular participant in significant exhibitions in London. 

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