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Back in the late 70s when I began my interest in royalty I soon found myself attracted to the 19th century. Despite my love for modern technology there are times I think I was born in the wrong century. I love looking at old photos from the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Even though the art of photography was growing in the 19th century all types of painting, including portraits, still thrived. For anyone examining royalty in the 19th century sooner or later you will run into the works of Franz Xaver Winterhalter (20 April 1805 – 8 July 1873). He was a German painter from the Grand Duchy of Baden who became one of the most sought after painters at the courts of Europe.

The portrait of Queen Victoria above was not for the public but was commissioned for Prince Albert. I think this portrait is exemplary of his style.

He is by far my favorite painter, besides Bob Ross of course. Winterhalter devoted his life to the study of art. He first attended a school at a Benedictine monastery in St.Blasien. At the age of thirteen he began to study drawing and engraving. In 1825, he was supported by Ludwig I, Grand Duke of Baden (1763–1830) and began a course of study at the Academy of Arts. In 1828 he became drawing master to Sophie, Margravine of Baden and it was here than his association with royal courts began. In 1836 he was able to move to Paris, France and in 1838 his painting of Louise Marie of Orleans, Queen of the Belgians, and her son, Duc de Brabant brought him great notoriety and within a short time he was the court painter for King Louis-Philippe of France.

One of the sad things about Winterhalter’s career is that in artistic circles popularity breeds contempt. His style was uniquely his own although he was influenced by Romanticism which crossed both art and literature. He was not taken seriously in artistic circles and fellow artists and critics dismissed his work as being superficial and an expression of affectation. Since he was painting many royals at court he did flatter them in portrait and was at their mercy to portray them in images which would enhance them in the eyes of their subjects. He was loved in royal circles as he painted The royal families of England, France, Spain, Russia, Portugal, Mexico and Belgium. His style does idealize his subject and there is an air of elegant romanticism to his work. His best work was with the ladies at court. His most famous paintings being those of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. His paintings of the royal men were not as popular.

Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov

He died of typhus in 1873 at the age of 68. He had a brother, Hermann, who was also a painter who lived until 1891. Another favorite of mine appears above. The lady is not royal, she is Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov. She was a wife of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, a Russian aristocrat, and she and her husband are mentioned in the novel “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. She sat for Winterhalter in 1845 and this portrait now sits in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. After his death his work fell into obscurity and it wasn’t until the mid to late 20th century when his work became acknowledged and celebrated.

Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal

I only posted a couple of portraits so I suggest to my readers to do a google image search to enjoy more of his work.

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