Sabrina Norlander Eriksson
Sabrina Norlander Eriksson.

Sabrina Norlander Eliasson is Associate Professor in Art History at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics at Stockholm university. She is the author of Portraiture and Social identity in Eigteenth-Century Rome published with Manchester University Press in 2009 and she co-edited the catalogue raisonné Italian paintings in the Nationalmuseum. Three centuries of collecting with Hatje Kantz in 2015. Currently, she is the Chair of the International Master Program in Technical Art History and the Art Museum at Stockholm university and is finishing a book length study on the cultural consumption of nuns in Eighteenth-Century Rome.


During the eighteenth-century the portrait historié gained a strong position in Europe. Classical and literary mythologies were firmly adapted into pictorial settings that would stress and confirm the social legitimation and gender conventions of elite and polite societies. Portraiture depended heavily on the formulae of proper history painting which served as a catalyst for chosen narratives or episodes that would bring the sitter right to the chore of a myth or a literary work. This paper explores the presence and adaptations of the Medea figure within elite eighteenth-century portraiture and how it related to two separate genres in which the Medea figure is particularly present, namely history painting and the specific actor’s portrait that developed in Britain, France and Italy. By examining the prevailing episodes and adaptations of the Medea story, the paper aims to question what different social and gender oriented implications the Medea figure might have stressed within the particular genre of portraiture.