The present work has previously been attributed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter, though a full attribution has not been attached to this impressive work. The sitter has traditionally been identified as Maria Sophie of Bavaria, Queen Consort of Naples and the Two Sicilies (1841 - 1925). The sitter bears a strong resemblance to existing portraits and photographs of the distinctive Maria Sophie. The background has been identified as the Bay of Naples, with Mount Vesuvius faintly visible at the lower left of the composition. Stylistically, this work is similar to many of the portraits of royal and noble women that are fully attributed to Winterhalter, who painted the present sitter’s sister, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, on three occasions. Many of Winterhalter’s portraits have a similar composition of an elegantly dressed lady standing in three-quarter length against a very minimal landscape or atmospheric background. Though the present work appears unfinished, the sitter’s face, pearls and the gauze-like, diaphanous qualities of her fashionable white gown have evidently been painted by a skillful hand. It is possible that the work was left unfinished by the artist because of the overthrow of Maria Sophie and her husband, King Francis II, in 1860 by revolutionist republicans under the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi. As a result, the monarchs had to suddenly flee their court at Naples.
We are grateful to Dr. Eugene Barilo von Reisberg for his assistance with the cataloguing of this work.