Portrait of Edward Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1823-1902) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 2]

January 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Edward von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach 1849 Winterhalter Copy

Portrait of Edward Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1823-1902) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 2]

[Continued from Part 1]

Winterhalter depicts Prince Edward in a head-and-shoulders format, in half-turn to the right, and facing the viewer. The prince is shown attired very modestly in the portrait, wearing an elaborately tied black silk cravat over a starched white shirt and a simple jacket. However, the simplicity of his garments is very typical of the mid-nineteenth-century style of the upper classes. As I explore in my forthcoming thesis on Winterhalter, following the upheavals of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, scions of royal and aristocratic dynasties broadly adopted sensible, sober, and sombre garments of the middle classes to emphasise their subordination to the services of the country, rather the incident of birth and hereditary privileges.

Prince Edward’s aunt, Queen Adelaide, whose own children died in infancy, lavished all her motherly attention on her nieces and nephews on both sides of the channel. Prince Edward, son of Queen Adelaide’s sister, Ida von Sachsen-Meiningen, Fürstin von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, was among  them. He was born, and spent much of his childhood and youth, in England, becoming a close friend of the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII). In fact, Winterhalter’s original portrait, which is presently in the British Royal Collection, was bequeathed to Edward VII upon the sitter’s death. After becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1841, Prince Edward began to pursue career in the military, and fought valiantly during the Crimean War, during which he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. From 1855, he became ADC to Queen Victoria. Prince Edward retired from active service in 1890 with the rank of Commander-in-Chief.

To be continued … [see part 3].

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

Portrait of Edward Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1823-1902) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 1]

January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Edward von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach 1849 Winterhalter Copy

Portrait of Edward Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1823-1902) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 1]

As per the first post about Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857), Gorringes also featured in their slightly earlier auction, in December 2005, a painting, which was described in the catalogue as “Victorian School, Portrait of a Gentleman” (illustrated above).

The painting is, in fact, a replica or a copy of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s Portrait of Edward Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1823-1902), the original of which, signed and dated 1849, is in the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, possibly at Buckingham Palace.

Once again, a comment has to be made about the high quality of the portrait at Gorringes’, at least judging from the photograph on their website. While it is also quite possibly, just like in the case of the Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857), an excellent copy by William Corden, a closer examination, as well as a thorough provenance research, might suggest this work is a replica by the artist.

The same portrait – or at the very least a very similar copy or a version – appeared less than a year later at another British auction house, Lawrences (October 2006, lot 1555). This time, however, the portrait was fully catalogued, correctly identifying both the artist and the sitter.

According to the catalogue entry, the portrait was inscribed with details on reverse; and it was also accompanied with a lithograph of the painting by R.J. Lane, which once again would have made identification much easier.

It only goes to show that it is certainly impossible to know every painting by every artist, and that, at times, auction house specialists are at the mercy of the vendors.

To be continued … [see part 2].

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

[PS]: Neither of the auction houses provided any provenance details, so it is indeed rather difficult to know whether we are talking about the same work or two different portraits, which just happen to pop up on the British art market within a year of each other.

Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 2]

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Duchess of Gloucester 1850 Winterhalter Copy

Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 2]

[Continued from Part 1]

The sitter was the fourth daughter and eleventh child of King George III and Queen Charlotte of Great Britain. She was considered to be the most beautiful of the six daughters, but similarly to her sisters, Mary’s prospects of connubial bliss were overshadowed by the illness of her father, domineering spirit of her mother, historical events, and the political instability in Europe. Eventually, in 1816, she married her cousin William, Duke of Gloucester. Although the marriage would have been vetoed by her father who disapproved marriages between cousins in general, and of the Gloucester family in particular, the union took place during George III’s illness and was only made possible with the mediation of the Prince Regent.

The Duchess of Gloucester commissioned Winterhalter to paint her portrait as a birthday present to her niece, Queen Victoria, with whom she was very close. When the Duchess died in 1857, at the age of 81, having outlived all her brothers and sisters, Queen Victoria wrote: “With her is gone the last link, which connected us with a bygone generation. She was an authority on everything, a bright example of loyalty, devotion and duty, the kindest and best of mistresses, and friends. She had become like a grandmother to us all, from her age, and from her being the last of the family.”

To be continued … [see part 3].

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857) (copy) @ Gorringes (cat no 389) [Part 1]

January 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

Duchess of Gloucester 1850 Winterhalter Copy

Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857) (copy) @ Gorringes [Part 1]

Replicas and copies of Winterhalter’s works are becoming increasingly valuable on the art market. However, they can still slip by unnoticed and undetected with a relative ease at art auctions.

For example, the auction house Gorringes, of Lewes, East Sussex, featured in one of their auctions in April 2006 a painting which they described as “Victorian School, Portrait of an Old Lady” (illustrated above).

The painting is, in fact, an exceptionally fine copy of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s Portrait of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857), the original of which, signed and dated as painted in 1850, is in the collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, possibly at Buckingham Palace.

The portrait shows Queen Victoria’s seventy-four year old aunt at head-and-shoulders, in half-turn to the left, turning her head towards the viewer. Her hair is parted in the middle and plaited around the ears in an early Victorian style. It is covered by a blue and white lace headdress, which is fastened under her chin, and descends onto her shoulders. The Duchess is wearing a dark-brown day dress, possibly of satin or silk, with ruches and embroideries, and with a white collar edged with lace. Her decorations comprise of a single golden brooch just visible under the lace; and a heavy pendant, possibly a large miniature or a watch, suspended from a heavy gold chain.

The portrait clearly shows Winterhalter’s versatility in depicting sitters of all ages. The artist has been frequently accused of beautifying and idealising his sitters, but as this portrait shows, he does not shy away from the veristic though sympathetic depiction of the venerable old age.

I have only seen a photograph of the work at Gorringes online, and not in high resolution. It is most likely a copy by William Corden, a professionally trained painter of extraordinary talent, who, together with his son William was employed by Queen Victoria almost exclusively as a copyist. However, the exceptionally high quality of the portrait, that comes forth even through this low resolution, makes me wonder whether this could be indeed Winterhalter’s own replica.

To be continued … [see part 2].

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

Dresden Portrait Re-Identified as a ‘Lost’ portrait of Augusta Großherzogin von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916)

March 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

321 46 Mecklenburg-Strelitz WinterhalterDresden Portrait Re-Identified as Winterhalter’s ‘Lost’ portrait of Augusta Großherzogin von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916)

The recent catalogue of Victorian Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has helped me to shed light on the portrait in the collection of Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, known hitherto only as Damenbildnis [see no 321, Works by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1846-1850]

The painting can now be fully identified as a portrait of Augusta Großherzogin von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916), née Princess of Cambridge, painted at Windsor Castle between 7 and 16 October 1846.

The following research information backs up my suggestion:

  • A miniature enamel copy of this portrait (5.0 x 4.0 cm) by John Simpson (1811-aft 1871), signed, dated, and identified as a copy after Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s portrait of Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, of 1846, is in the collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 421918).
  • A further copy of this portrait by Henry Melville (fl 1846-86) (oil on canvas, 61 x 50.8 cm, oval), is also in the collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 406676).
  • Both copies were commissioned by Queen Victoria after the original portrait by F.X. Winterhalter, which was given to the sitter’s husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Großherzog von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1819-1904).

000 Copy - FXW MSThere are numerous references to confirm the dating of the portrait from October 1846:

  • The portrait was commissioned by Queen Victoria from Franz Xaver Winterhalter, who was in England from September 1846 to February 1847 [Oliver Millar, Victorian Pictures, 1: 284]
  • One of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, Hon. Eleanor Stanley, wrote in a letter from Windsor Castle, dated 7 October 1846: “I was on the whole day with some Royalty or other, as the Grand Duchess [of Mecklenburg] sat for her picture from eleven till two to Winterhalter, and desired [me] to go and sit with her… After lunch she had another sitting, and I attended again till four o’clock, when she went out driving with the Queen…” [Eleanor Stanley, Letters (London: 1916), 136].
  • The portrait is mentioned in Queen Victoria’s diary in an entry for 16 October 1846, where the portrait is described as ‘quite beautiful & so boldly, as well as finely painted’ [Oliver Millar, Victorian Pictures (London: 1992), 1: 326].
  • It was given as a joint present from Queen Victoria and the Dowager Queen Adelaide to the sitter’s husband, then the Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, on 17 October 1846 [ibid].
  • The portrait is mentioned on the list of portraits by F.X. Winterhalter, published posthumously by the artist’s nephew, Franz Wild, in 1894, where it appears among other 1846 portraits by the artist [Franz Wild, Neckrologe…, 38].

Confirmation from the Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, of this identification is pending further correspondence.

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2012

John Lucas vs Franz Xaver Winterhalter

January 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Excerpt from a Review of  

John Lucas, portrait painter, 1828-1874: a memoir of his life mainly deduced from the correspondence of his sitters, by his son, Arthur Lucas (London: Methuen 1910)

“Our admiration of the book itself and for Mr Arthur Lucas’s filial piety only increases our regret at remaining unconvinced as to the claims of John Lucas to a place in the front rank of painters. The Victorian era, especially in the earlier years, is in fact a somewhat dismal record of competent mediocrity. Genius, or what remained of it, died with Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1830, and many years were to elapse before it again showed its head above the soil in British art.

“It was a dull, drab period, for which the artists themselves cannot be held wholly responsible. The patrons of art liked paintings which they could understand, and which reflected their own ideas and personalities to the exclusion of the painter’s. Painters were only too complaisant, and under the presidency of Sir Francis Grant mediocrity reigned supreme at the Royal Academy, and thus received the hallmarks of authority…

“The survey of a career like that of John Lucas enables us to understand why in certain circles Winterhalter should have been preferred.”

© L.C., “Reviews and Notices”, The Burlington Magazine, 18: 96 (Mar 1911), 357.

Review of “Princess Alice” by F.X. Winterhalter (1857)

January 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Review of the portrait of Princess Alice by F.X. Winterhalter (1857)

“The likeness of Princess Alice, taken in 1857, by the Court painter, Herr Winterhalter, presents to our eyes a well-grown young lady of fourteen, who, as the novelists say, might be older. It is a fact very humiliating to physiognomists that the character and expression of a face are greatly influenced by the arrangement of the hair; and we suppose this is the reason why we are not forcibly struck by the resemblance of the young Princess to her parents.

“Nevertheless, we can with little difficulty trace in these delicate features certain general repetitions of the family type. There are “the ripe Guelph cheek and the straight Coburg brow,” though the former is less Guelphic in its ripeness than we have observed to be the case with other cheeks among princes of the blood royal, while the Coburg brow loses a little of its individuality by the partial adoption of a coiffure recently in vogue at the Tuileries.

“Mr Lane has considerately softened the harsh materialism, and modified the Dutch flatness which are so distinctive of the Winterhalter school of painting; and at the same time he has preserved all the best qualities belonging to an artist who is inspired with no comprehensive or elevated ideas of human life.” [See cat. no. 582]

© “Lithographic Portraits of the Royal Family.” Daily News, 22 November 1859, 3.

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