As the last great European court painter, Franz Xaver Winterhalter led an extraordinary life. Born in 1805 to a humble family in a small Black Forest village, he studied art in Munich before being appointed as painter to the court of Baden. Following a period of study in Italy, he settled in Paris in 1834, where he built his reputation in the Salons with his genre paintings. In 1837, his Decameron was a huge success, turning him into a fashionable painter. From that point on, commissions came thick and fast. From 1838, King Louis-Philippe commissioned a series of portraits of the Orleans royal family. It is likely that the influence of the King’s daughter Louise, Queen of Belgium, led Winterhalter to be asked to paint the portrait of Leopold I of Belgium and to work for his niece, Queen Victoria. He was also solicited by Napoleon III when he came to power. Winterhalter soon eclipsed his rivals to become the favoured portrait artist to the Empress Eugenie. In the 1860s, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and his wife Elisabeth, Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna and the Hohenzollern family all commissioned sumptuous portraits. Artist and critic Alfred Stevens came to write that: “His speciality is painting the queens and princesses of the world. It seems as if every figure of nobility wants to be the subject of Winterhalter’s brush.”
This exhibition is organized by the Musée national du Palais de Compiègne and the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais, the Städtische Museen Freiburg, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
director: Emmanuel Starcky, director of the Musées et domaine nationaux du Palais de Compiègne et de Blérancourt
curator: Laure Chabanne, chief curator at the musées du Second Empire au musée national du Palais de Compiègne
Open: every day except Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entries at 5.45 p.m.)
Admission: € 9,5, concession € 7,5 (including permanent collection), free for visitors under 26, friends of the Musées nationaux du Palais de Compiègne, and all visitors on the first Sunday of the month
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