The Empress Eugenie

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, L'imperatrice Eugenia, 1852 ca.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (Menzenschwad 1805 - Frankfurt 1873)

1852 ca.
Material and technique: 
Oil on canvas
cm 240x155
inv. mn 432

This is the official portrait, created in 1853, of the young empress, who had married Napoleon III the previous January. Eugenie de Guzman, Countess of Teba and Montijo (1826-1920), daughter of Spanish nobleman, who had fought for the French in 1807, met Louis Napoleon in the salotto of Princess Mathilda Bonaparte, when he was President of the French Republic. Beautiful and elegant, she enchanted the President-Prince, who married her despite advice to the contrary. Franz Xaver Winterhalter created this portrait at the same time as that of the emperor Napoleon III. The two portraits pleased the imperial couple so much – Eugenie was particularly pleased with hers – that they were exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris and brought the painter the title of peintre attitré de la Cour de Napoléon III.
Winterhalter did not, however, meet with favour from contemporary critics, who thought his pictures common, although admitting that «… de tous peintres [ est] le seul qui nous ait donné une image rassemblant de S.M. l’impératrice…». Eugenie is shown in full formal dress, in front of the throne, with the crown placed on a pouf; in the background, through extensive hangings, there is a glimpse of the Tuileries. This painting, which was given to Count Giuseppe Primoli by Eugenie, may be the one that was hung in the Council Chamber of the Tuileries.

Masterpieces of the hall

The hall

Sala III

In this room, dedicated to the Second Empire (1852-1870), are displayed paintings, sculptures, engravings, furniture, and other objects from the period of French history in which Napoleon III predominated. They exemplify the great ferment of artistic production which took place under the reassuring motto “The Empire is Peace”. 

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