Florinda @ Koller West, 20 March 2013 (c.f. cat. no. 456)
This watercolour came up at Koller, in Zurich, Switzerland, previously on 17 September 2012 (lot 6635); and again recently on 20 March 2013 (lot 6627).
It is immediately apparent that the watercolour is based on Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s celebrated painting, Florinda, painted by the artist in 1852, exhibited that very same year at the Royal Academy in London, and immediately purchased by Queen Victoria as a birthday present for her husband, Prince Albert. The painting remains by descent in the Royal Collection (c.f. cat. no. 456).
Winterhalter must have been so satisfied with the painting that he decided to produce an almost exact replica to be exhibited at the Salon, in Paris, in 1853. The work was eventually purchased by an American collector, and is today at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (c.f. cat. no. 474).
Just who and at what point produced this watercolour remains unclear.
First and foremost, the initials on the right hand side of the watercolour, F.W., are not in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s handwriting, and this in turn makes the entire watercolour problematic.
As such, the watercolour immediately attracts greater scrutiny, and the technique, brushwork, application of (rather faded) pigments, and the interpretation of the female prototypes all comes into questioning.
While it is known that Hermann Winterhalter frequently produced watercolour copies after his brother’s paintings, mainly as visual aids for lithographers and engravers, they were mainly done in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Furthermore, they were usually and clearly signed by Hermann Winterhalter. There is no indication that this practice continued into the 1850s, and in any case, Franz Winterhalter’s initials on this work that are neither in Franz’s nor in Hermann’s handwriting further throw Hermann’s authorship in doubt.
Therefore, this work might be a nineteenth-century copy by an unknown artist at best. Winterhalter’s Florinda was so celebrated at the time that it was engraved and lithographed on at least three separate occasions by three separate artists between 1857 and 1864. It is pure speculation whether or not this work might somehow relate to the production of these engravings and lithographs.
Admittedly, on both occasions, in September 2012 as well as in March 2013, Koller cautiously entered this watercolour, which measures 29.0 x 40.0 cm, in their catalogues as zugeschrieben, or ‘attributed’, with the estimates of 3,000-4,000 CHF / € 2,460-3,280. At the time of writing, the work remains unsold.
© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2013