Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff (Maria Ivanovna Beck, 1835–1866)
Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, Menzenschwand 1805–1873 Frankfurt)
Oil on canvas
57 1/4 x 45 1/4 in. (145.4 x 114.9 cm)
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967
Not on view
Although trained in Germany, Winterhalter spent most of his adult life in Paris, where he became a favorite portraitist of European aristocrats. In 1841 alone, his sitters included the king and queen of Belgium; King Louis-Philippe of France; and Queen Maria Cristina of Spain. The following year, he added Marie-Amélie, queen of France, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England to his roster of royal models.
The twenty-four-year-old countess depicted here was the wife of Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, a Russian aristocrat and Francophile. The book of English poetry in her lap is thought to be a reference to her father, Ivan Alexandrovitch Beck, a poet and translator. Her choice of a fashionable day dress may have been suggested by Winterhalter, who is known to have advised his sitters on their wardrobe and posed them to their best advantage in his studio.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower left): FrWinterhalter / Paris 1859.
the sitter's husband, Count Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, Saint Petersburg (possibly commissioned as a wedding present in 1859–d. 1902); their son, Count Nikolai Alexandrovitch Lamsdorff, Saint Petersburg (1902–d. 1906); his brother, Count Dmitry Alexandrovitch Lamsdorff, Saint Petersburg (1906–at least 1917; probably expropriated and nationalized in 1918/19); State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (in 1925–28; transferred to the Pushkin); Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (ca. 1928); [art dealer, Paris, in the 1920s and 1930s; sold to de Groot]; Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York (by 1936–d. 1967; on loan to MMA, 1936)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Costume Institute. "Vanity Fair," December 15, 1977–September 4, 1978, not in catalogue.
Franz Wild. The Nekrologe und Verzeichnisse der Gemälde von Franz & Hermann Winterhalter. Zürich, 1894 [reprinted in Richard Ormond and Carol Blackett-Ord, "Franz Xaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe," Washington, 1987, p. 236, no. 407], calls it a three-quarter length portrait.
A. P. Muller. Painters and Sculptors in Russia. Moscow, 1925 [see Ref. Barilo von Reisberg 2003], as in the collection of the State Trtyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Harry B. Wehle. "A Loan of Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (October 1936), p. 210.
Harry B. Wehle. "The de Groot Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (June 1948), pp. 264, 268, ill., erroneously states that the countess was the wife of the Russian ambassador to Rome.
Richard Ormond et al. Franz Xaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe, 1830–70. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. London, 1987, pp. 54, 236, no. 407, includes iy as no. 407 in an annotated list of Winterhalter's works originally drawn up by his nephew Franz Wild in 1894; comments that it represents a full-face pose with bust and head rising vertically from the semicircle of the dress.
Eugene Barilo von Reisberg. Letter to Gary Tinterow. March 12, 2003, gives extensive information regarding the sitter and her family and suggests that the book of poetry that she holds is a reference to her father.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 44, 312, no. 41, ill. (color and black and white).
Countess Maria Ivanovna Lamsdorff was the daughter of Ivan Alexandrovitch Beck, a Russian translator and poet, and Maria Arkadievna Stolypina. In 1857, two years before the portrait was painted, she married Count Alexander Nicolaevitch Lamsdorff of St. Petersburg, who was a Russian ambassador to the French court. She is believed to have died of consumption. The book she holds in her hand is thought to be a reference to her father.
Wild [see Ref. 1894, no 285] refers to another painting of the Countess Lamsdorff (size and location unknown). A related watercolor drawing, signed and dated 1857, "Portrait of an Unknown Girl" was formerly in the collection of Sir Robert Abdy.