Portrait of Ferdinand von Malaise, 1827 (cat. no. 32c)


Winterhalter 032c 1827 Malaise

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873)

Cat. No. 32c: Portrait of Ferdinand von Malaisé (1806-1892) 

1827, Munich (?), pencil and wash on paper, Private Collection

This early – and therefore very rare – portrait by F. X. Winterhalter was uploaded on http://en.wikipedia.org and http://de.wikipedia.org late last year – but it took nearly a year for me to come across it purely by chance!

The portrait represents Ferdinand von Malaisé (1806-92), a son of a French émigré, Christophe Malaisé (1773-1852), and his wife née Magdalena Stephani (1769-1821). He served in the Bavarian Artillery Regiment from 1822, progressing from cadet to second lieutenant (1827), lieutenant (1838), and captain (1845).

From 1852 to 1863, Malaisé was employed by the Bavarian Royal Family as a tutor to the elder sons of Luitpold Prinz von Bayern (1821-1912), the future Ludwig III, King of Bavaria (1845-1921), and his brother, Leopold Prinz von Bayern (1846-1930).

He continued his military career, becoming officer in 1862, commander of the Cadet Corps in 1864, and Major-General during the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. In 1870 he was appointed Commander, 1st Royal Bavarian Field Artillery Brigade and Director of Field Artillery, 1st Royal Bavarian Corps during the Franco-Prussian War.

Ennobled in 1862, Ferdinand von Malaisé was raised to the ranks of hereditary nobility in 1887. He was married in Adelheid Wibmer, having had issue, four sons and three daughters.

The portrait is dated as having been drawn in 1827. This coincides with Malaisé’s relocation from Landau in Pflaz to the Royal Cadet Corps in Munich, and his promotion to the rank of lieutenant. Further research is required to ascertain whether Malaisé’s name appears in Winterhalter’s correspondence or vice versa; but it is most likely that the portrait was commissioned to coincide with the above-mentioned events in Malaisé’s life. The date of the portrait is also consistent with Winterhalter’s biography, for the artist was predominantly based in Munich from 1824 to 1830.

The portrait is an invaluable document of Winterhalter’s early style. It is an effervescent exercise in drawing by the 22-year-old artist; the medium of pencil and ink wash are confidently handled. A slight awkwardness in proportions between the size of the head and torso is consistent with Winterhalter’s early portraits, as are comparatively oversized eyes. However, the sharp turn of the head and the unflinching stare of the eyes that are communicating directly with the viewer already establish a compositional trademark that would distinguish Winterhalter’s portraits in the future.

It is a REAL treat to see such an early work by Winterhalter. I believe the work remains by descent in the family, and I do wonder what other treasures by Winterhalter still remain undiscovered and uncatalogued in private collections across the world.

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012