Empress Eugénie of France
Franz Xaver Winterhalter was one of the most fashionable and stylish portraitists of the mid-nineteenth century. His sensuous and softly romantic images were a great success, and he was commissioned to paint most of the crowned heads of Europe. The stylish image of flattering luxury and power made defining images of monarchs such as the 1842 portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
This portrait is of Empress Eugénie of France (1826-1920) and is a reduced copy by the artist of the original commissioned by the Empress in 1854 and now in the Forbes Magazine Collection. Eugénie was the daughter of a Spanish father (Count Manuel Fernandez) and a Scottish mother (Marie Kirkpatrick), who became Empress in 1853 when she married Napoléon III (Napoléon Bonaparte’s nephew).
This painting was painted shortly after their marriage. Eugénie and her husband represented the end of the French monarchy. After the loss of a battle at Sedan, they fled to England. In 1880, she moved to Farnborough Hill, where she spent the rest of her life. She visited the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in 1881 where Sir Merton recalled, ‘she also expressed a hope that my wife and I would pay Her Majesty a visit at Farnborough Hill.’