Countess Virginia Oldoini Verasis di Castiglione (1835–1899)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 12.5 x 9 cm (4 15/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Mount: 14.5 x 10.7 cm (5 11/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 35.6 x 43.2 cm (14 x 17 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Not on view
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on mount, verso TR: "90 [boxed]"
Maurice Levert; (Pescheteau-Badin, Godeau & Leroy, Paris, January 28, 1995, lot 90); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
The Countess is shown here dressed in the latest fashion for the winter season of 1862-3. She wears a coatdress of lilac velvet, edged in red velvet cut into dents and a cloak edged with chinchilla. Her white bonnet is tied with red and white double strings, and she holds a chinchilla muff. Her son, Giorgio (1855-1879), is in Scottish dress: a kilt and sash, a white bonnet with a cock's feather, calf-length pantaloons, and tartan socks. This had been the uniform for upper-class boys between the ages of five and eight since 1857 ("Les Modes parisiennes," 14 February 1857).
Among society ladies, fashion victims were called cocodettes. The Countess nicknamed her son "the tiger," the name used to describe the pages who accompanied fine ladies in town, acting as a sort of foil to their beauty. This highly successful portrait of mother and son captures a rare moment of tenderness. The Countess sent a similar portrait to her husband and to friends in Italy. In the Alinari collection there are two summarily retouched prints, dedicated by "Nicchia" to the Marquis d'Azeglio, whom she addresses as "cousin." There is an unpainted print of the photograph entitled "Costigliole," showing the Countess alone, in the Montesquiou album (1975.548.51). Costigliole, the title noted by Montesquiou, was the name of one of the properties owned by the family of Francesco di Castiglione. Only the negative showing the mother and son has survived (69/114).
The quality of the painting and the elegance of the painted borders suggest that these two photographs were from the album that belonged to the Countess. [PA; "La Divine Comtesse", p. 177-8]