11 February 2016

Throwback Thursday: Provocative Portraits

 As it turns out, 19th Century men also liked sexy portraits of their wives.  Thankfully, renowned royal portraitist Franz Xaver Winterhalter was around to capture that perfect, provocative image before photographs and selfies were pushed portrait painting into a different realm. Winterhalter usually painted his royal ladies in grand style, looming large and gorgeous amidst a dramatic setting. For these two paintings, however, he evoked a more intimate image.

Still a newlywed in 1843, Queen Victoria commissioned this portrait for her beloved husband Prince Albert's 24th birthday present. The surprise was greatly appreciated, as Victoria recorded in her journal, "he thought it so like, & so beautifully painted. I felt so happy & proud to have found something that gave him so much pleasure." The painting hung in his writing room at Windsor so that he could look at as he worked. It was also recreated in miniature so that he could carry it with him.

Two decades later, Winterhalter painted a similarly personal portrait of 25-year-old Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Like Victoria and Albert, she and Emperor Franz Joseph were a love match. It is not surprising then that he also kept this portrait in his study so he could look at her when he worked. He had a great need to be able to see her image because, while Victoria and Albert were nearly inseparable, Elisabeth was always restless and frequently traveled leaving her husband at home alone. His loneliness for her was permanently imposed when she was assassinated by an anarchist in 1898. He outlived her by 18 years, but had this portrait to help him remember his beautiful and beloved wife.

No comments:

Post a Comment