Countess Virginia Oldoini Verasis di Castiglione (1835–1899)
1856–57, printed 1861–67
Salted paper print from glass negative
Image: 23.2 x 17.8 cm (9 1/8 x 7 in.)
Mount: 31.7 x 23.8 cm (12 1/2 x 9 3/8 in.)
Mat: 57.2 x 47 cm (22 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Not on view
Inscription: Inscribed in ink on mount, verso TC: "Comtesse de Castiglione"; Inscribed in pencil on mount, verso C: "91 [boxed]"
Maurice Levert; (Pescheteau-Badin, Godeau & Leroy, Paris, January 28, 1995, lot 91); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
The first performance of "Beatrix", a play by Ernest Legouvé, took place at the Odéon on 25 March 1861. The great Italian actress Adelaide Ristori (1822-1906) was performing in French for the first time, in a role that was perfectly suited to her talents: a great actress who sacrifices her love for a prince who is forced into marriage with a princess of the blood. The Countess, a staunch admirer of Ristori, felt a strong affinity with the character she was portraying, and she took her inspiration for this picture from a scene in the play in which, at the tomb of Romeo and Juliet, Beatrix, the "Madonna of Art," bids farewell to the world. "She was a Virgin, now she is a martyr," is how the critic Paul de Saint-Victor sarcastically ended his review in "La Presse" (1 April 1861). Above the portrait of herself as Beatrix, the Countess wrote: "When the sorrow is so beautiful to behold, who could wish for happiness?"
The large photograph painted by Schad, of which this version is a reduced copy, was bought by Mme de Benardaky at the estate sale in 1901; its present whereabouts are unknown. In 1922, a painted photograph of the same subject was in the Marquise Casati collection (see "Le décor de la vie...," Palais du Louvre, Paris, 1922, exh. cat. no. 426). [PA; "La Divine Comtesse", p. 173]
This print was housed together with Frayeur (2005.100.407) in Maurice Levert's collection, and sold as part of the same lot (1995). See also the small, original version also in Gilman Paper Company Collection (2005.100.195). [Alteveer/IFA]