Another fascinating portrait that recently graced the walls of an auction house represents an unknown lady, in an elaborate, low-cut, evening dress of white tulle and satin, richly decorated with lace, and with a lace shawl thrown over the crinoline skirt. She is most sumptuously bejewelled with earrings; a two-strand pearl necklace; a gem-set star-shaped brooch; bracelets on both arms, including a gold bangle with emerald and pearls; and gem-set rings on her fingers. Most notably, she is holding a lorgnette with an elaborately decorated, gem-set handle.
The portrait is signed, but not dated. Stylistically, it fits among the artist’s portraits from the late 1850s to the early 1860s. Such dating corresponds with the hairstyle á l’Impératrice and the elaborate crinoline skirt.
The identity of the sitter remains a mystery.
The label on the reverse of the painting suggests that the portrait represents a member of the Aguado family. The lady in the portrait looks to be in her early to mid-twenties. The only member of the Aguado family who fits the age of the sitter is Berthe Freiin von Freystedt (1834-98), who, in 1860, married Count Olympe Aguado (painted by Winterhalter in 1852).
A photo of Comtesse Olympe Aguado in the archives of Musée d’Orsay bears similarity with the lady in this portrait, especially in the outline of the brow, the nose, and the jawline. Other photos show her with a similar hairstyle; and one of the photos also shows her wearing glasses.
Further research is required to confirm convincingly the identity of the sitter and the history of the ownership of the portrait.
Estimated at £30,000 – £50,000, the portrait was sold for a comparatively modest sum of £28,000.
The portrait is given a provisional number 635 in the current version of my catalogue raisonné.
© Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 3 July 2019