A lithograph by Alphonse Martinet (1821-1861), of Mlle Virginie Marie Louise de Sainte-Aldegonde
A lithographed by Alphonse Martinet (1821-1861), of Mlle Virginie Marie Louise de Sainte-Aldegonde, the future Duchesse de Rochechouart-Mortemart (1834-1900) from the portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73) of 1839
It was published by Goupil & Vibert on 1 June 1844, the lithograph was subsequently exhibited by Martinet at the 1844 Salon as "Jeune fille avec un chien" (no 2372).
Franz Xaver Winterhalter portrait is recorded in the Winterhalter Catalogue, no 162.
The portrait shows the five-year-old Virginie seated out of doors, in white dress with red patterned sash around her waist, pantaloons and black lace-up shoes showing from underneath the skirt. Her hair is parted in the middle and fashionably arranged in cascading ringlets.
She is leaning, boldly and innocently, on a massive dog, and puts her arm around its neck. The pair is placed in a seaside setting on a small sandy hillock with sparse shrubbery on either side of the picture; a seascape with swirling clouds is visible in the background.
Winterhalter underscores the high social standing of the girl (she was a scion of an old aristocratic family) with such trappings of aristocratic portraiture as landscape setting, an architectural detail of a building in the background, as well as the dog itself, most likely a Neapolitan mastiff, used for hunting, which was historically a privilege reserved for the land-owning aristocracy.
At the same time, the motif of a girl with a dog within a landscape and a quasi-Mediterranean setting give the picture a more general appeal of a genre composition that transcends the strict limitation of portraiture. This "universality" was of major importance in the annals of the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century portrait painting, and Franz Xaver Winterhalter succeeds here with aplomb.