Sitter’s Identity Corrected: Portrait of Princess Lina Gagarina, 1857 (cat no 590) [Part 1]

January 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Lina Gurieva Gagarina 1857 Winterhalter

Sitter’s Identity Corrected: Portrait of Princess Lina Gagarina, 1857 (cat no 590) [Part 1]

Dear Friends,

First and foremost, Happy New 2014 Year to all the subscribers and readers of this blog!

I would like to start the year from correcting the identity of the sitter in a portrait by Winterhalter, which I am certain has to count as being among the most beautiful and striking works by the artist.

I am referring to Portrait of Princess Lina Gagarina, painted by the artist in Baden in 1857 (oil on canvas, 75 x 56 cm), in the collection of Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Galeria degli Uffizi, Florence.

The painting has been traditionally identified under the confusing title Ritratto della Contessa Lina Gagarina Muradieva. The title is ‘confusing’ for a number of reasons. The Gagarins [Гагарины] are one of Russia’s most noble ancient dynasties, but they bear a princely rather than a comital title. While in all probability there is a surname ‘Muradiev’ somewhere in Russia, most of the researchers have agreed that the Uffizi has misspelled the name of another revered Russian noble dynasty, the Counts Muraviov [Муравьёвы].

This, however, brings another problem into the identification of the sitter. The woman in the portrait – even allowing for Winterhalter’s certain degree of flattery and idealisation – appears to be aged in her late 20s or early 30s. The title “Contessa Lina Gagarina Muradieva” suggests that the woman in the portrait is a Princess Gagarina by birth, but a Countess Muraviova by marriage. While there were certainly intermarriages between the Gagarin and Muraviov dynasties, the initial genealogy research clearly shows that no women, who united the Gagarin and Muraviov families, would have been in their late 20s or early 30s around 1857.

A number of genealogy researchers and / or Winterhalter enthusiasts on Russian-language websites and forums readily agree that the most likely candidate could have been Princess Sophia Nikolaevna Gagarina [Княжна София Николаевна Гагарина] (1847/1848-1874), who married Count Mikhail Nikolaevich Muraviov [Граф Михаил Николаевич Муравьёв] (1845-1900). However, they are quick to point out the impossibility of such attribution, as Princess Sophia would have been only nine or ten years old at the time the portrait was painted; that she became Muraviova by marriage only in 1871; and that one cannot possibly morph ‘Sophie’ into ‘Lina’.

In fact, some Russian-language forums and websites argue, that that the sitter is Maria Aleksandrovna Sturdza [Мария Александровна Стурдза] (1820-1890), wife of Prince Evgeni Grigorievich Gagarin [Князь Евгений Григориевич Гагарин] (1811-1886), whose descendants bore the surname of Gagarin-Sturdza [Гагарин-Стурдза]. While the age of Princess Maria Aleksandrovna Gagarina-Sturdza, who would have been in her late 30s in 1857, roughly coincides with that of the sitter in the portrait, two problems arise from this identification. Firstly, there were no Muraviovs in that branch of the Gagarin family; and, secondly, no proof is provided that Princess Maria Gagarina-Sturdza was ever known as ‘Lina’.

To be continued…

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

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You are currently reading Sitter’s Identity Corrected: Portrait of Princess Lina Gagarina, 1857 (cat no 590) [Part 1] at The Winterhalter Catalogue.


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