Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm @ Dorotheum, Vienna

Princess of Liechtenstein @ Dorotheum

Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm @ Dorotheum, Vienna

The second work to appear at Dorotheum’s Imperial Court Memorabilia and Historical Objects on 25th April 2013, also ascribed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter, was the optimistically titled Prinzessin Liechtenstein im Kostüm (1845, watercolour on paper, lot 161).

It depicts a maiden, at half-length, in a picturesque peasant costume of a white blouse, black corset richly embroidered with flower motives, and a straw hat decorated with a garland of wild flowers, a vivid blue bow, and matching ribbons.

I cannot argue whether or not this is indeed a princess from the house of v.u.z. Liechtenstein playing dress-ups. However, the attribution to Winterhalter is rather contentious. The signature in the lower right hand corner of the watercolour is not in Winterhalter’s handwriting. The overall quality, design of the figure, brushwork, and use of pigments also, in my opinion, are not consistent with those of Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

The watercolour was sold for a comparatively modest (for F.X. Winterhalter) sum of €4,000 (against the original estimates of €1,200 to 1,800).

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2013.

Florinda @ Koller West, 20 March 2013 (c.f. cat. no. 456)

Florinda Watercolour Copy 01

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.

Florinda Watercolour Copy 02

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.

Florinda Watercolour Copy 03

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