Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) 1846

Franz Xavier Winterhalter, After 1805 - 1873

Portrait of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Franz Xavier Winterhalter, After
Watercolour with pencil on paper
19th Century
12 1/2 x 10 inches 31.8 x 25.4 cm
Richard Ormond and Carol Blackett-Ord, Franz Xaver Winterhalter And The Courts of Europe 1830 -70, (1988).
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This charming version of Winterhalter's most famous three-quarter length portrait of Queen Victoria has been executed with attention to detail.

In addition to its reduced scale, the finely pencilled strokes and expert use of watercolour render it a fine example of a royal portrait which could have been hung in a modest mid-nineteenth century interior. As a royal image, Winterhalter's depiction of the Queen was reproduced for numerous occasions and individuals. Our portrait derives from the artist's second variant, owned by the Earl of Hardwicke. Like the prime version which hangs at Windsor, the Hardwicke version features the Queen in a white ball-gown, holding a spray of roses. In this rendition the artist has chosen to include the sash of the garter on her dress.

Having earned his reputation as a court portraitist after painting members of the French royal family, Winterhalter was introduced to Queen Victoria in 1842 by Marie-Louise of Belgium. Although the artist had begun his career as a pupil of Josef Stieler and Ferdinand Piloty in Munich, his style, with its smoothness of texture, line and colour is largely reflective of his association with the French Neo-classicist school and Horace Vernet. His ability to produce a highly-finished and exact image greatly appealed to the Queen, who prized Winterhalter's skill at reproducing a likeness above his other artistic merits. In the thirty-one year association between the artist and the royal couple, he produced over one hundred works in oil, including four pairs of state portraits. Unlike proceeding painters such as Martin Archer Shee and David Wilkie, Winterhalter was able to capture on canvas those ideals which the royal family saw as representative of themselves as rulers.

Relaxed, yet formal, gentle yet commanding, the artist's manner of representation was one previously unknown in his portraiture of the European monarchy. Equally, in this first portrait Winterhalter was able to produce an image of the Queen which was both natural and flattering to her often difficult to capture features. Lady Bloomfield commented that he''... catches the expression of the Queen''s mouth much better than anybody. It is peculiar, and very difficult to render without being caricature'' For this 1842 commission, which included a pendant of Prince Albert, the artist was paid 300 Guineas.

1 Lady Bloomfield, Reminiscences of Court and Diplomatic Life, p. 130
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