1780. Oil on canvas, 65.6 x 65.5 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Read Note.
Abelard, Peter (French: Pierre Abailard or Pierre Abelard, 1079-1142), a native of Brittany, scholastic philosopher and preacher. In 1113, he opened a parish school, which became well-known. His theological views were declared heretical by the Council of Sens (1141) where he was vigorously opposed by St. Bernard.
However, he is probably most famous for his unhappy love with Eloise (French: Héloïse, 1101-1164). Eloise was the niece of Fulbert, a canon of Notre Dame Cathedral in whose house he boarded. She was an educated young woman and Abelard’s pupil. In 1119, their love was discovered by her uncle and ended in a tragic separation. Eloise went into a convent at Argenteuil, while Abelard retreated into the Abbey of Saint Denis. Thus began their famous correspondence and his love poems. Later, he wrote the autobiographical Historia Calamitatum Mearum ("The Story of my Sorrows").
In 1717, the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) published his poem ‘Eloisa to Abelard’, which Kauffman used as a basis for her painting.