A enamel brooch of Mlle Virginie Marie Louise de Sainte-Aldegonde
An enamel brooch of Mlle Virginie Marie Louise de Sainte-Aldegond, the future Duchesse of de Rochechouart-Mortemart (1834-1900) from the portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73) of 1839
Possibly the work of Carl Schmidt (German)
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.