Portrait of Katharina Sigl-Vespermann (1802-1877), 1825 @ Kiefer Pforzheim [Part 2]
[Continued from Part 1]
Winterhalter’s involvement with lithography began early at the age of 12 or 13, when in 1818 he began his apprenticeship at the lithographic studios in Freiburg-im-Breigau. His lithographic work continued in Munich from 1823, where he also attended the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. A number of Winterhalter’s lithographs from the Munich period feature performers of the Hofoper, or the Royal Bavarian Opera and Ballet Theatre. While further research on this subject is required, given the fact that the artist was still a young student, it is most likely that commissions for the portraits of theatre performers came to him via one of the lithographic publishing houses for which he worked at the time, such as those of Montmorillon, Piloty, or Selb.
It is important to point out that in 1828 Katharina Sigl-Vespermann was also painted by the Bavarian Court portraitist, Karl Joseph Stieler (1781-1858) (oil on canvas, Neue Pinakothek, Munich). This means that Winterhalter’s portrait predates that of Stieler, and was most likely carried out before Winterhalter joined Stieler’s studio, whereupon the artist concentrated on producing numerous portrait lithographs based on the works of his master rather than on his own original drawings.
It has to be admitted, albeit reluctantly, that of the two portraits, Stieler’s is arguably better of the two. However, it has to be borne in mind that Stieler’s portrait is a work by a mature artist whose reputation as the elite portrait specialist was established literally before Winterhalter was born. At the same time, it is interesting to observe, that Sigl-Vespermann looks very similar in both portraits. Both artists captured not only the singer’s elaborately fashionable hairstyle, but also her strikingly elongated and angular face, and a long, swan-like neck. It can be argued that the comparison between the two portraits clearly shows that Winterhalter’s mimetic abilities were already in evidence from the very early stages of his career.
© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014