Lot 143
  • 143

Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Studio

60,000 - 80,000 USD
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  • Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Studio
  • Portrait of Charlotte of Belgium, daughter of King Leopold I
  • inscribed with the number 71 lower left; a red inventory stamp on the reverse of the canvas with intertwined initials LP surmounted by a crown (the cipher of Louis-Philippe, King of the French) and the number 6219; and inscribed Marie-Charlotte-Amélie-Auguste-Victoire-Clémentine-/Léopoldine, Princesse de Belgique,/Fille de Léopolde, Roi des Belges, et de Louise-Marie-/Thérèse-Charlotte-Isabelle d'Orléans,/Née le 7 Juin 1840./Par Mr. F. Winterhalter.
  • oil on canvas


Commissioned by Louis-Philippe, King of the French (1773-1850), in 1845;
By descent in the Orléans family;
By family descent to Prince and Princess Godehard von Hohenzollern, at Burg Namedy;
Anonymous sale, Düsseldorf, Hargesheimer & Günther, 11 September 2010, lot 377.


Rapport à Monsieur l'Intendant Général, 26 April 1845: "D'après les orders du Roi, Mr. François Winterhalter, peintre, ayant été chargé d'exécuter les portraits désignés ci-après, j'ai l'honneur de proposer à Monsieur L'Intendant Général de fixer le prix de ces ouvrages de la manière suivante: [...] [Portrait en grand buste] de la Princesse Charlotte de Belgique [répétition pour le château d'Eu] — 1200 FF" [inscribed 6219 in pencil]; (manuscript in the Archives des Musées Nationaux, Paris).

Catalogue Note

Over a long and prolific career that spanned much of the 19th century, Winterhalter was the most sought after portrait painter among the nobility and associated with almost every royal family in Europe.  He was born in Menzenschwand, a small town in the Black Forest region of Germany, where his artistic promise caught the attention of a local industrialist, Baron Eichtal, who had connections with the court at Karlsruhe.  It is through Eichtal’s probable sponsorship that Winterhalter received formal artistic training and an apprenticeship, first in Freiburg and, later, at the Munich Academy.  He also worked in the studio of the fashionable portrait painter, Josef Stieler (1781-1858) whose smooth neo-classical style, with its pleasing effects of color and lighting, had a decisive influence on Winterhalter and set him on the path as a portraitist.1  His career advanced quickly; in 1829 he was appointed drawing master to Sophie Guillematte, Grand Duchess of Baden and, later, court painter to her husband, Grand Duke Leopold, in Karlsruhe.  After moving to Paris, where he exhibited portraits and genre pictures at the Salon, he was commissioned to paint full-length portraits of the French king, Louis-Philippe, and various members of the Orléans family. He also executed numerous portraits for King Leopold I of Belgium whose consort, Queen Louise-Marie, was the eldest daughter of Louis-Philippe.  Leopold was the uncle of Queen Victoria and, through him, Winterhalter was introduced to the English Court.  He travelled to England every year for a stay of several months and produced more than 100 works in oil for Queen Victoria between 1842-1871.  His renown was such that, after the French king was ousted in 1848, Winterhalter was sought by the new dynasty under Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie to be the official iconographer of the Second Empire.  He also painted many members of the Polish and Russian aristocracy who flocked to his Paris studio.   The extent of Winterhalter’s royal patronage was such that one would have to go back to the age of Rubens and Van Dyck to find court painters working within such an international network of contacts.3

This enchanting portrait of the young Princess Charlotte of Belgium was commissioned by her grandfather, King Louis-Philippe of France, in 1845 for the Château d’Eu, his summer residence on the coast of Normandy.  The reverse of the canvas bears the King’s cipher and the number 6219 (fig. 1), corresponding to the original order as listed in the Rapport of 1845 (see Literature).  It is a three-quarter length version of the full-length portrait of Charlotte commissioned by her father, Leopold I of Belgium, signed by Winterhalter and dated 1844, in Laeken Palace, Brussels. Family portraits commissioned by the Belgian and French kings were often replicated by Winterhalter and his studio for different branches of the interrelated families.  Charlotte was four years old when Winterhalter painted the original commission for Leopold.  She is depicted informally, wearing a black hooded cloak and white dress, as if she is about to go out for a walk.  Indeed, the full-length Laeken Palace portrait shows her standing on an open terrace with a rose bush and distant landscape seen at the left side.  Charlotte was the only daughter and youngest child of Leopold and Louise-Marie d’Orléans.  She matured into a great beauty and, at age seventeen, married her second cousin Ferdinand Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I.  The early part of their marriage was happily spent in Italy where Maximilian was appointed Viceroy of Lombardy and Venice.  However, events for which they were wholly unprepared would soon overtake their lives.

In the early 1860s, Napoleon III of France decided to conquer Mexico creating a satellite empire which would serve the interests of France in the New World.  In 1863, he succeeded in overthrowing the government of President Benito Juarez.  Maximilian was selected to be the new Emperor and he and Charlotte, who became known as Empress Carlota, arrived in Mexico City and were crowned in the Catedral  Metropolitana in 1864.  Charlotte determined to take her imperial duties seriously, touring remote areas and devoting herself to the needs of the local population.  However, not long after their coronation Napoleon III began to withdraw troops from Mexico, signaling his diminishing support for the scheme.  The United States had refused to recognize the legitimacy of Maximilian’s rule and sympathized with Juarez, who still had strong support among factions in the country.  Charlotte was determined to intervene on behalf of her husband and set off for Europe in July of 1866 to request assistance from Napoleon III.  When this was refused, she went to Rome to entreat Pope Pius IX without success.  By this time, Charlotte was in a deep depression and showing signs of severe mental instability.  She would never return to Mexico.  Despite the dire situation, Maximilian had refused to abdicate and in 1867 the last of the French forces was defeated.  He was taken prisoner and sentenced to death by a military court.  Though there were international pleas for amnesty, Juarez refused to commute the sentence and Maximilian was executed on 19 June, 1867.  Charlotte never fully recovered her mental health and lived largely in seclusion for the remaining 60 years of her life.

We are grateful to Eugene Barilo von Reisberg for his assistance in cataloguing this painting.


1  R. Ormond, in Franz Zaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe 1830-70, London 1987, p. 22.
2. In the collection of the Musée du Versailles.
3.  R. Ormond, op. cit., p. 51.
4.  Oil on canvas, 140 by 98 cm.