Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Brief Biographical Outline

Brief Biographical Outline

Portrait of F.X. Winterhalter by Queen Victoria or Prince Albert

 Franz Xaver Winterhalter, c. 1850s

by Queen Victoria or Prince Albert

Oil on canvas, 47 x 40.6 cm, HM Queen Elizabeth II




Franz Xaver Winterhalter was born on 20 April 1805 in a picturesque Black Forest town, Menzenschwand, in the former ecclesiastical fiefdom of St Blasien, which after the Secularisation of 1806 was absorbed into the Grand Duchy of Baden. He was the seventh child of Fidel (1773-1863) and Eva Winterhalter (née Mayer, 1765-1838), whom the artist’s early biographers describe as land-owning farmers and inn keepers, but who the more recent biographers claim as having been armen Bauern (poor peasants).

 Before 1818

Winterhalter received primary education and elementary instruction in drawing from Pastor Joseph Berthold Liber (1781-1854), a former Benedictine monk and an art lover, who was able to salvage numerous works of art from St Blasien monastery, where he was a monk until its secularisation in 1806, and place them within the newly erected church and adjoining parish school in Menzenschwand.


On the advice of Pastor Liber, Fidel Winterhalter raised the necessary 400 Gulden for board and tuition in order to enrol the twelve-year-old Franz Xaver, in the autumn of 1818, at the Freiburg-im-Bresgau studio of the artist and printmaker Karl Ludwig Schuler (1785-1852).


Within a year, Schuler’s studio merged with that of Bartholomäus Herder (1774-1839), the proprietor of a respected lithographic and publishing institution, and an acquaintance of Pastor Liber, whom he met while studying at the St Blasien monastery from 1792 to 1794. Franz Xaver is joined there the following year by his brother, Hermann.


Leaves Herder early in 1823, and after a brief sojourn in Menzenschwand, moves to Munich in spring of the same year, where he commenced working on lithographs for such leading printmakers of the day as Ludwig Albert von Montmorillon (1794-1854), Ferdinand Piloty (1786-1844), and Joseph Selb (1784-1832); further income was derived from portrait drawings. Hermann Winterhalter joins his brother in Munich in 1824.

024i 25 Winterhalter after Bordone 1825 – 1826

Through the mediation of David Seligmann Freiherr von Eichthal (1755-1850), Karlsruhe-based industrialist and philanthropist (who may have met Winterhalter family through Pastor Liber, the shell of whose former monastery was occupied by the baron’s spinning mills), the annual stipend of 200 Gulden was allocated by  Ludwig I, Grand Duke of Baden (1763-1830) enabling Winterhalter to pursue academic training at the Munich Academy of Arts. He begins receiving instruction in portrait and oil painting from Joseph Karl Stieler (1781-1858), a celebrated portrait painter and honorary Academy member, and produces lithographs after his portraits of the Bavarian Royal Family.


The artist completes his studies at the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in the summer of 1827,  travells to Landshut, Regensburg, Nürenberg, Pommersfelden, and other towns, sightseeing, drawing, and undertaking portrait commissions; returns to Munich.


Lives in Munich, continues working in lithography and undertakes further portrait commissions, including those of Freiherr von Eichthal and his wife; through von Eichthal’s mediation appointed  drawing master to the family of Ludwig I’s morganatic half-brother, Leopold Graf von Hochberg (future Grand Duke of Baden, 1790-1852).


Lives in Munich and travels regularly to the Grand Ducal Court at Karlstuhe; executes portrait drawings of Sophie Wilhelmine von Hochberg (future Grand Duchess of Baden) and other members of the Grand Ducal family.


Moves to Karlsruhe, lodges with Dr J.A. Wich; paints portraits of Karl Spindler, Joseph Berckmuller, Luise Fries, and others.


Paints at the court of Baden, portraits include the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Baden, their children, and other members of the family. 


Paints the Grand Duchess of Baden with her son, Prince Wilhelm; received a study grant from the Grand Duke; leaves to study in Italy; visits Rome, Ariccia, Orvieto, Capri, Tivoli, etc.


Studies in Rome, address recorded as Caffe Greco, via Condotta; shares his studio with J.B. Kirner; travels to Naples and Venice; produces several albums of sketches and watercolours, and the Roman Genre Scene.


Returns to Karlsruhe in August; appointed Court Painter to the Grand Duke of Baden and paints the portrait of his daughter, Alexandrine, the future Duchess of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, and of Freiherr von Eichtal; in December leaves forParis.


Works in Paris (17 rue des Petits Augustins); exhibits for the first time at the Salon.


Works in Paris (15 rue des Petits Augustins); exhibits at the Salon, paintings include Il Dolce Farniente.


Works in Paris, exhibits Decameron at the Salon, paints Mme Delong and her children, Graf Jenison-Walworth and Prince de Wagram.


Works in Paris (34 rue de Lille); exhibits among others the portrait of the Prince de Wagram and his daughter at the Salon, receives his first commissions from Louis-Philippe, King of the French, and paints Princesse Clémentine and the Queen of the Belgians with her son. The latter painting is sent to Queen Victoria as a present and becomes the first painting by the artist in the Queen’s possession.


Works in Paris (1 rue de Labruyère); exhibits at the Salon; paints the King of the French, the King of the Belgians, the Duchesse d’Orléans with her son, the Dukes de Nemours and d’Aumale, the Duke and Duchess of Württemberg; awarded the Knight of the Légion d’Honneur and the Knight of the Order of the King Leopold I; joined in Paris by Albert Graefle (1807-89), who becomes his studio assistant until 1845.


Works in Paris, joined by his brother Hermann and paints a self-portrait with his brother; paints the King of the Belgians, the Duchesse de Nemours and the Duchesse de Vallombrosa; awarded Cross of the Commander of the Order of King Leopold I.


Works in Paris, exhibits at the Salon; paints the King of the French, the Queen of the Belgians, the Queen of Spain, the Maréchal Sébastiani and Comtesse Duchâtel with her son; Queen Victoria purchases La Siesta.


Works inParis, exhibits at the Salon; receives his first commission from Queen Victoria and travels to London to paint the Queen and Prince Albert; also paints the Queen of the French, Madame Adélaïde, the Duc d’Orléans, the Comte de Paris, and the Duchess of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.


Works in Paris and London, exhibits at the Salon; paints state portraits of QueenVictoria and Prince Albert, also paints the Duchess of Kent, the Duke de Nemours, the Prince de Joinville, the Duke of Beaufort and the Fürstin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.


Works in Paris (29 rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette) and London, exhibits at the Salon; paints the large-scale Reception of King Louis-Philippe at Windsor Castle, paints children of the King and Queen of the Belgians, Princesse de Joinville and Duc de Montpensier.


Works in Paris and London, paints Louis Philippe Receiving Queen Victoria at the Château d’Eu, also paints the King of the French, QueenVictoria and Prince Albert.


Works in Paris and London, exhibits both large-scale Reception paintings at the Salon; paints The Royal Family, as well as separate full-length portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales in a Sailor Suit; paints the King of the Belgians, Princess Augusta of Prussia, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Duchesse d’Aumale and Princesse de Joinville.


Works in Paris and London, exhibits The Royal Family at St James’s Palace in London; paints QueenVictoria, Duchesse de Montpensier, and Prince August von Sachsen-Coburg undGotha.


At the outbreak of the February Revolution and the abdication of Louis-Philippe, Winterhalter leaves Paris and works in England, Belgium and Switzerland, paints Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia.


Works predominantly in England, paints Queen Adelaide, numerous portraits of QueenVictoria’s children, Duchess of Kent and Duchess of Cambridge, British aristocracy (including the Duchess of Sutherland), Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Fürst and Fürstin von Sachsen-Meiningen; also works in Belgium; returns to Paris towards the end of the year.


Works in Paris and London, travels to Karlsruhe; created member of Akademie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Amsterdam; paints Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, future Queen of Prussia, Duchess of Gloucester, and Fürst zu Leiningen, QueenVictoria’s half-brother.


Works in Paris and London; paints The First of May, children of QueenVictoria, and of Prince and Princess Wilhelm of Prussia.


Works in Paris and London, paints Florinda, which he exhibits same year at the Royal Academy; paints Queen Victoria, travels with Eduard Magnus to Madrid, where he paints Isabel II, Queen of Spain; betrothed to Marie Scheffel, but engagement later broken off. December: coup d’état in Paris, Napoléon III becomes Emperor of the French.


Works in Paris and London, travels to Baden, exhibits at the Salon in Paris and at the Royal Academy in London; receives first commissions from the Emperor and Empress of the French and paints their State Portraits; also paints the Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Princess Augusta of Prussia and Countess Elzbieta Krasinska. 


Works mainly in Paris and London, created Peintre Attiré de la Cour de Napoléon III ; paints Empress Eugénie, Grand Duchess Sophie of Baden, Maharajah Duleep Singh, King Pedro V of Portugal and his brother, future King Luis of Portugal, and Countess Katazryna Potocka.


Works in Paris and London, invited to be on the 1855 Salon Wards Jury along with Ingres and Delacroix; paints Empress Eugénie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting, which is exhibited with several other works at the 1855 Exposition Universelle; also paints Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s half-sister, the Fürstin zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden.


Works mainly in Paris and London, but also travels to Baden, Austria, Poland and Switzerland; exhibits at the Royal Academy; paints Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, Queen Victoria, Fürst Karl Egon III zu Fürstenberg, Russian and Polish aristocrats.


Works mainly in Paris (2 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin / studio at 64 rue de la Rochefoucauld) and London, but also travels to Baden, Württemberg and Switzerland; exhibits at the Salon; raised to the rank of Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, paints Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, Emperor Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie of the French, future King Karl I and Queen Olga of Württemberg, Grand Duchess Luise of Baden, Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, Grand Duchesses Maria Nikolaevna and Olga Feodorovna of Russia, Russian and Polish aristocrats.


Works in Paris, travels to Germanyand Switzerland; awarded Knight of the Order of St Anne, 3rd Class (Russian Empire); paints Langräfin Anne von Hessen, and Russian aristocrats, most notably Princess Tatiana Youssoupova, Princess Maria Worontzova, Princess Elizaveta Bariatinskaia, Sophia Naryshkina and Varvara Rimskaia-Korsakova.


Works mainly in Paris and London, travels to Germany; awarded Order of the Red Eagle (Kingdom of Prussia); exhibits at the Salon; paints state portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Grand Duke Konstantin and Grand Duchess Alexandra Iossifovna of Russia, and of noted Russian aristocrats, Princess Sophia Gagarina, Princess Maria Worontzova, Princess Elizaveta Troubetzkaia and Countess Maria Lamsdorff.


Works mainly in Paris; travels to Germany, Baden, and England; paints Princess Pauline von Metternich, Duchesse Carmen de Montmorency, Princess Elena Kotchubey, and Princess Maria Obolenskaia.


Works in Paris, exhibits at the Salon; paints Empress Eugénie, state portraits of King Wilhelm I and Queen Augusta of Prussia; travels to London to execute posthumous portraits of Prince Albert and the Duchess of Kent.


Works in Paris, travels to Baden and Berlin; visits Italy; exhibits at the 1862 London International Exhibition; paints Empress Eugénie, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia, Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, Duchesse de Mouchy, Shouvalov, Abaza and Auffm’Ordt families.


Works in Paris, travels to Brussels, Baden and Stuttgart; visits Italy; exhibits at the Salon; paints Queen Sophie of the Netherlands, future Queen Marie-Henriette of the Belgians, Duchesse Sophie de Morny, the Duke of Hamilton, Lady Middleton, the Bariatinsky family, and the Wellesley sisters.


Works in Paris, London and Vienna, travels to Baden and Germany; exhibits at the Salon; paints Emperor Napoléon III, Empress Eugénie and the Prince Imperial, two portraits of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlotta of Mexico, Queen Ekaterina of Mingrelia and her children, Princess Sophia Radziwill, Varvara Rimskaia-Korsakova, and the wedding portraits of the Prince and Princess of Wales.


Works in Paris and Vienna, travels to Baden and south of France; paints state portraits of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth of Austria, King Karl I and Queen Olga of Württemberg, Prince and Princess Belosselsky-Belozersky, Countess Maria Branicka; and travels to Rosenau near Coburgto paint QueenVictoria’s children.


Works in Paris; travels to Baden and south of France; paints Princess Antonia of Hohenzollern, Fürst Christian von Schleswig-Holstein, Duchess of Teck, and a subject picture, Susannah and the Elders.


Works in Paris, travels to Germany and Italy; completes posthumous portrait of Prince Albert, which is presented by Queen Victoria to the National Portrait Gallery; paints Mrs Philip Vanderbyl and exhibits the portrait at the Royal Academy in London; also paints the Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by the Rhine, Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Prussia.


Works briefly in Paris, travels to Munich and Italy; completes a self-portrait on the request from the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, for their famous collection of artists’ self-portraits; paints his last portrait of QueenVictoria, a double portrait of sisters Alexandra, Princess of Wales, and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia, of Mme Mélanie Goldschmidt, and Adelina Patti.


Works briefly in Paris, takes an extended holiday to the south of France and Switzerland; paints identical portraits of sisters Queen Olga of Württemberg and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia; other portraits include Mme Leon Casso, Frédéric Kuhlmann, and Contessa di Castelvecchio.


Spends winter in Italy; at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Winterhalter leaves for Switzerland.


Lives and works in Baden; paints members of the Russian Imperial Family at Bad Petersthal; moves to Karlsruhe and settles with his brother at no 4 Friedricksplatz.


Lives and works in Karlsruhe; travels to Frankfurt where he paints a modest number of portraits of Auffm’Ordt, von Metzler and von Grunelius families;  and travels to Baden-Baden on Queen Victoria’s request to paint her  half-sister, Fürstin zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg – the artist’s last commission for the Queen.

F.X. Winterhalter's tombstone, by O. Sommer 1873

Lives in Karlsruhe; travels on invitation of von Metzler family in June to Frankfurt, where he caught typhoid fever during an epidemic, and died on 8th July at Diakonissen Krankenhaus; buried at the Frankfurt Cemetery. Posthumously awarded another Order of Franz Joseph, and his first retrospective exhibition was held in October same year at the Kunsthalle in Baden.

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012

Do you have any comments, suggestions, or additions to the online Franz Xaver and Hermann Winterhalter Catalogue and these blog entries? Have you heard more news about the works by these artists at auctions and exhibitions? Then do not delay and get in touch!

3 thoughts on “Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Brief Biographical Outline”

  1. Dear Sir
    I am in the possession of lithographic art of Winterhalter no29 minna d,apres FS GOUPIL VIBERT&co EDITEURS PARIS SIGNED by EMILE LASSALLE if you are interested about this piece of art let me know for more detail


  2. Do you have any information on the painting of winterlaken’s titled, ” a Swiss Girl From Interlaken”?
    I am curious as to who this girl truly is. Was she a member of royalty or a peasant?
    My close friend had a painting of this, and although I know many oil reproductions are made, we are curious as to more information and why some reproductions have the Swiss girl with moles and our painting does not.
    It would be nice to see a catalogue of Winterlaken’s work that did not involve royalty. While I know he is known for his royal commissions, it would be great for the public to be able to see the other side of his paintings depicting ” every day” individuals.
    I love your site!
    Thank you,
    Trisha hammond


    1. Hi Trisha,

      The following quote comes from the Winterhalter exhibition catalogue: “The Swiss girl is wearing a traditional regional costume of the Canton of Berne: a black velvet over-bodice held together with jewelled straps, and with a decorated, pointed waist, worn over a white chemise, a dark silk skirt with ribbons at the waist and black net mittens. She stands beside a bank, holding a straw hat in one hand and raising one hand to her head. Behind her rises a snow-covered ridge of the high Alps. Dating from the 1840s, the picture continues the theme of Winterhalter’s Italian genre scenes, through the model here is an incarnation of the spirit of the mountains, rather than of the soft and luxurious south. The identity of this beautiful model is not known, but family tradition links her with the daughter of a banker in Berne, to whom the artist is said to have been engaged.”

      Yes, I agree, it would be interesting to see a stand-alone examination of Winterhalter’s genre scenes.

      Thank you for your interest,
      Eugene B.v.R.


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