Maria Hadfield Cosway
Active in: England, Italy, and France
Alternate names: née Hadfield
Born in 1760 in Florence to an Italian mother and an English father, Maria Hadfield Cosway would become famous throughout Europe for her portraits and social networks. As a young woman in Florence, Cosway studied with Violante Cerroti and Johann Zoffany. From 1773 to 1778, she copied Old Masters at the Uffizi Gallery and in 1778, she was admitted to the Accademia del Disegno. She moved to London in 1779, where she exhibited work at the Royal Academy and married fellow miniaturist Richard Cosway. In addition to her talents as a painter, she was an accomplished composer, musician, and society hostess. Cosway had a brief romantic affair with Thomas Jefferson in 1786 and they maintained their correspondence until his death in 1826. From 1803 to 1809, she directed a school for girls in Paris and after it closed, she founded a Catholic convent and girl’s school in Lodi, near Milan. She returned to England in 1821 to care for her husband until his death, moving to Italy soon after, where she lived until her own death in 1838.
Maria Hadfield Cosway, Young Woman with a Box, ca. 1785–1795. Pen and brown ink on cream wove paper, 24.8 x 13.1 cm. Art Institute of Chicago
Maria Hadfield Cosway, Study of Two Women, n.d. Graphite on medium cream wove paper, 5.4 x 6.7 cm. Yale Center for British Art
Maria Hadfield Cosway, Judgement of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, ca. 1801. Pen and ink and oil on canvas, 37.5 x 29.2 cm. Yale Center for British Art
Maria Hadfield Cosway, Sappho, 1826. Brown ink and graphite on medium cream laid paper, 22.9 x 18.4 cm. Yale Center for British Art
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Burnell, Carol. Divided Affections: The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway: Celebrity Artist and Thomas Jefferson’s Impossible Love. Lausanne: Column House, 2006.
Chapman, Caroline. Eighteenth-Century Women Artists: Their Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs. London: Unicorn, 2017.
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Kaminski, John P. Jefferson in Love: Love Letters Between Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosway. Madison, WI: Madison House, 1999.
Lloyd, Stephen. Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion. Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1996.
“Maria Cosway.” Georgian Gentleman. mikerendell.com/maria-cosway-nee-hadfield-1759-1838-painter-socialite-and-a-real-looker/.
“Maria Cosway (1760–1838).” Royal Academy of Arts. www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/maria-cosway.
“Maria Cosway Engraving.” Monticello, Thomas Jefferson Foundation. www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/maria-cosway-engraving
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Rice, Howard C. “Jefferson in Europe a Century and a Half Later: Notes of a Roving Researcher.” The Princeton University Library Chronicle 12 (1950): 19–35.
Thomas Jefferson to Maria Hadfield Cosway, Letterpress Copy of “Head and Heart” Letter. October 12, 1786. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mtjbib002293/.
Van Pelt, Charles B. “Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosway.” American Heritage 22 (1971). http://www.americanheritage.com/content/thomas-jefferson-and-maria-cosway
Williamson, George Charles. Richard Cosway, R. A., and His Wife and Pupils: Miniaturists of the Eighteenth Century. London: George Bell and Sons, 1897.
Williamson, George Charles. Richard Cosway, R. A. London: George Bell and Sons, 1905.
Willkens, Danielle S. “Thomas Jefferson, Sir John Soane and Maria Cosway: The Transatlantic Design Network, 1768–1838.” PhD Dissertation, University College, London, 2015.
Willkens, Danielle S. “Reading Words and Images in the Description(s) of Sir John Soane’s Museum.” Architectural Histories 4 (2016): 5.