Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm @ Dorotheum, Vienna

Princess of Liechtenstein @ Dorotheum

Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm @ Dorotheum, Vienna

The second work to appear at Dorotheum’s Imperial Court Memorabilia and Historical Objects on 25th April 2013, also ascribed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter, was the optimistically titled Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm (1845, watercolour on paper, lot 161).

It depicts a maiden, at half-length, in a picturesque peasant costume of a white blouse, black corset richly embroidered with flower motives, and a straw hat decorated with a garland of wild flowers, a vivid blue bow, and matching ribbons.

I cannot argue whether or not this is indeed a princess from the house of v.u.z. Liechtenstein playing dress-ups. However, the attribution to Winterhalter is rather contentious. The signature in the lower right hand corner of the watercolour is not in Winterhalter’s handwriting. The overall quality, design of the figure, brushwork, and use of pigments also, in my opinion, are not consistent with those of Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

The watercolour was sold for a comparatively modest (for F.X. Winterhalter) sum of €4,000 (against the original estimates of €1,200 to 1,800).

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2013.

Portrait of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria @ Dorotheum, Vienna

Empress Elisabeth @ Dorotheum

Portrait of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria @ Dorotheum, Vienna

Winterhalter’s name appeared several times in recent art auctions, but not necessarily because an auction featured an artwork (or at least, in my opinion, a genuine artwork) by Winterhalter.

The Viennese auction house, Dorotheum, featured in their auction, Imperial Court Memorabilia and Historical Objects, on 25th April 2013, a splendid copy of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s famous portrait of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. Completed by Winterhalter during the early months of 1865, it has truly become one of the most iconic portraits by the artist, as well as one of the most iconic portraits of the Austrian republic today, which features it on innumerable postcards, websites, promotional materials, travel brochures, and I am certain at one stage it was even reproduced on an airplane.

The copy faithfully reproduces Winterhalter’s original portrait of the Empress of Austria, at half-length, and accurately relates Elisabeth’s appearance in Winterhalter’s portrait with plaited hair, diamond stars, splendid tulle dress, and dazzling naked shoulders.

The auction house experts acknowledged the fact that the present portrait is a copy by an unknown artist, but they also provided a most splendid aristocratic provenance, which suggests that the portrait may have been a personal present from the sitter to the ancestor of the recent owners.

I can only assume that the high quality of this copy, the extreme über-popularity and the celebrity status of the sitter, as well as the illustrious provenance of the piece convinced a bidder to part with €88,880 against the original estimate of €15,000 to 18,000.

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2013.