Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Menzenschwand, Baden 1805 - 1873 Frankfurt am Main
The German artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter was one of the most acclaimed society painters of the nineteenth century. The wives of the wealthiest bankers and industrialists of the period, as well as European aristocrats and royalty, were his primary sitters, and he famously portrayed Queen Victoria, the Empress Eugenie, and Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria, also known as Princess Sissi. During a period in which costume was an essential indicator of status, Winterhalter mastered to perfection the rendering of fine textiles, gleaming silks, airy tulle, and iridescent pearls. He also had an innate sense of “the right” pose and for composition as a whole. It is likely that he himself made suggestions for his sitters’ dress and accessories, for he knew which colours, fabrics, and cuts would flatter them best and what sort of clothing suited their purpose. To this Winterhalter always added a pinch of idealism, elevating each sitter to a heightened level of beauty. His monumental yet sensual poses, his masterful use of color, and the effective rendering of skin and textiles can be traced to the great portraitists Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Thomas Lawrence, and would later inspire the work of John Singer Sargent and Philip-Alexius de Laszlo.
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