Portrait of Clémentine de Boubers, Baronne Renouard de Bussierre (1854), by Hermann Winterhalter, @ Sotheby’s Paris
The aformentioned auction featured a portrait of Mélanie de Pourtalès’s sister-in-law, Clémentine de Boubers, Baronne Paul Renouard de Bussierre (1829-1861), by the hand of Hermann Winterhalter.
The baroness is painted at the age of 25, at just over half-length, posed frontally, with her face in semi-profile to the right. She is wearing an evening gown of white satin over a lace-edged under-blouse, with white silk bows at the sleeves and the waist. Apart from the corsage of pink roses and a golden wedding band at the base of the ring finger, the baroness wears no other jewellery or visible decorations.
The provenance of the portrait is unclear. The portraits of the sitter, her husband, and her sister are framed identically, suggesting that they were at one stage in the same collection. As Clémentine and her husband had no children, it is likely that their portraits may have passed to her sister-in-law, Mélanie de Pourtalès, and thence, by family descent, to Christian, Comte de Pourtalès, at Château de Martinsvart, from whose collection it was offered at Collection Schickler-Pourtalès: Art et Pouvoir au XIXe siècle, by Sotheby’s Paris, on 16 May 2019.
Clémentine’s white dress may suggest that the portrait references her marriage two years’ prior. The three states of the roses—wilting, blooming, and budding—are quite unusual in the context of a formal portrait, and may indicate Hermann Winterhalter’s own allegoric and moralising touch. The lack of jewellery broadly corresponds with the prevalent depictions of French aristocracy in the middle of the nineteenth century, and especially during—or shortly after—the Second Republic. It also may indicate the sitter’s personal piety and the lack of ostentatious tastes, reflective of her Protestant faith.
Offered with the estimate of € 30,000-40,000, the portrait appears to have found no buyers. Although Hermann Winterhalter may have been as talented as his celebrated older brother, his art market performance remains relatively modest.
© Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 16 July 2019