I was thrilled to see the above portrait to come up for sale at Christie’s in Paris, in their Tableaux anciens et du XIXème siècle sale on 25 June 2019.
The portrait represents Countess Olga Shuvalova (1838-69, née Princess Beloselskaia-Belozerskaia) at the age of thirty two. She is painted in an oval format, knee-length, seated, against a neutral background of golden-honey yellows. While she is painted en face, her light-brown eyes look upwards; her gaze transcends the picture plane. Her light-brown hair is dressed with a wreath of ivy leaves with garlands of green and purple acacia-style flowers. She is wearing a low-cut evening gown of white tulle, edged with lace, and decorated with an ivy-leaf corsage. A tasseled cream-coloured shawl, thrown over her right shoulder and the right arm, completes the Countess’s toilette. She rests an elbow on her knee, with fingers lightly supporting her chin. Unusually for a portrait of a Russian noblewoman in Winterhalter’s oeuvre, the Countess appears to be wearing no jewellery.
The portrait clearly forms a pendant to the portrait of the sitter’s husband, Count Pavel Shuvalov (1860, oil on canvas, Private Collection, cat. no. 687; illustrated in the previous post). Both portraits are carried out in a similar oval format, are roughly of the similar size, and are framed identically. As such, this is perhaps one of the very few known pendant portraits by Winterhalter of non-royal sitters.
The auction catalogue did not provide clear provenance for the portrait. While further research is still required, it is highly possible that both portraits were at one stage in the Demidov Collection until its dispersal by Christie’s in 1934.
Estimated at EUR 80,000-120,000, the portrait sold for EUR 150,000, demonstrating that the prices for Winterhalter’s portraits on the auction market have remained relatively steady.
The portrait is given a provisional number 688 in the current version of my catalogue raisonné.
© Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 30 June 2019