Portrait of Katharina Sigl-Vespermann (1802-1877), 1825 @ Kiefer Pforzheim [Part 2]

Katharina Sigl_Vespermann 1825 Winterhalter

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.

Katharina Sigl-Vespermann 1828 Stieler

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

Portrait of Katharina Sigl-Vespermann (1802-1877), 1825 @ Kiefer Pforzheim [Part 1]

Katharina Sigl_Vespermann 1825 Winterhalter

Portrait of Katharina Sigl-Vespermann (1802-1877), 1825 @ Kiefer Pforzheim [Part 1]

The auction house Kiefer features in their forthcoming Buch- und Kunstauktionen on 15 February 2014, in Pforzheim, Germany, a lithographic Portrait of Katharina Sigl-Vespermann (1802-1877) by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (40 x 29.2 cm, lot 5581, est. €0 – €60).

The lithograph shows the sitter frontally, at half-length, head in semi-profile to the left, her gaze piercing the limits of the picture plane. She wears a fashionable gown most likely of silk, gathered high at the waist, with large diaphanous sleeves, and decorated with silk bows at shoulders. Her hair is parted on one side, styled in fashionably elaborate curls, and adorned with roses.

Katharina Sigl-Verspermann was a renowned Bavarian operatic performer. She came from a family of Bavarian singers and musicians, and made her debut on the Berlin stage at the age of 10. In 1820 she received a permanent engagement with the Munich Court Theatre, where she gave memorable performances as Queen of the Night, Susanne, Elvira, Myrrha, Marzelline (Fidelio), and numerous other roles. She continued touring, appearing on the stages of Vienna, Nurnberg, and Stuttgart. In 1828 she married the baritone Wilhelm Vespermann (1784-1837), widower of another respected opera singer, Clara Metzger (1799-1827). An illness forced Katharina to retire from the stage in 1833, but she continued to participate in selected concerts and performances. She died at the age of 75 in Munich, in 1877.

The importance of this lithograph lies in the fact that it is one of the earliest known lithographic portraits by artist. The portrait bears facsimile signature and date lower right: Winterhalter ft – 1825, suggesting that the artist may also have been responsible for the original portrait drawing on which the lithograph is based (present whereabouts unknown). As the print bears no other names, it is highly possible that the artist was responsible for both the drawing and the production of a lithograph after it.

To be continued … [see part 2].

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014