Portrait of Maria Malibran-Garcia. Oil on canvas, artist unknown, undated.

Object type
Portrait of Maria Malibran-Garcia. Half-length, wearing a plum-coloured dress with ermine collar, off the shoulder, and a green shawl with patterned trim. Her hair is parted in the centre and swept back and upwards, and she is unadorned with jewellery. Behind and on the left is a blue-patterned heavy curtain. Oil on canvas, artist unknown, undated.
Date made
A note in the Academy's Committee Minutes of January 1932 records: 'It was reported that a portrait in oils of an unknown lady had been found in the loft. There was no indication as to the artist. The portrait has been cleaned and glazed. It was suggested that it might be of Viardot Garcia (Malibran's half-sister) and it was decided to make enquiries of Mr Albert Garcia. The painting has been hung in the Ladies' Waiting Room'.

A further note in the Royal Academy of Music Magazine in 1932 records that this portrait had remained 'perdu' since the removal of the Academy from Tenterden Street to Marylebone Road (1912). The writer records: 'It is that of a young and charming lady, and from the first it was thought to be a portrait of Malibran, daughter of Manuel Garcia, the father of the inventor of the Laryngoscope. In order to confirm this supposition, the portrait was photographed and a copy sent to Mr Albert Garcia, a member of the teaching staff of the Royal College of Music, who most kindly referred it to others of the Garcia family still living. They were satisfied that the portrait was that of Marie Félicité, known by the name of her first husband, Malibran, a grand-aunt of Mr Albert Garcia, to whom we are indebted for his interest and information. Her marriage belied her second Christian name; it was annulled, and later she married de Bériot, the composer and violinist. Her portrait 'speaks', and though we cannot hear her voice, we have the impression of a delightful personality and can well understand the enthusiasm which she aroused as a singer. London audiences heard her frequently; at the Gloucester Festival of 1829 and in Italian Opera, but the end came suddenly in Manchester a few days after the Festival there in 1836. She was only twenty-eight. The portrait is now in the Ladies' sitting room, and awaits the identification of its painter'.

An earlier note in the Committee Minutes, year ending 31st March 1921 records: 'Picture of Malibran from Miss Geneviève Ward (later Dame Geneviève Ward)'. If this is the same portrait, it conflicts with the note in the RAM Magazine (below), which suggests that the painting had been present in the Academy's former home in Tenterden Street, and 'perdu' since moving into the present building in 1912.

This portrait is visually influenced by Raphael's 'La Donna Velata' (1516), including the hair, gaze and clothing.

Nicolò Paganini is known to have attended Malibran's performances. The first opera that he heard in Paris was 'Otello' by Rossini with Malibran in the role of Desdemona.
painting, singer, soprano, opera
canvas, oil
Object type
Type Length Width Height Diameter Unit (length)
image 590 740 mm
image and frame 770 910 mm
Object No
Malibran, Maria, sitter


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