Venetian-born Rosalba Carriera popularized pastel as a medium for serious artwork rather than mere sketches. Pastel—pure, powdered pigment bound into sticks—lends itself to soft-edged forms with remarkably clear detail. Carriera’s skill with the medium is particularly evident in the naturalistic flesh tones and glinting jeweled headband in this image of “America.”
In the 18th century, Europe recognized four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. Illustrated title pages of European atlases published at the time often personified the continents. Artists represented each one as a woman identified through details of costume (e.g., a turban for “exotic” Africa) or attribute (“civilized” Europe often holds a scepter).
“America” is clearly part of such a set. The figure’s headband, feather hair ornament, and quiver of arrows reflect anecdotes and lore about the continent.