Monday, 27 November 2017
Grand Duke’s diary on the painter Franz Winterhalter
The diaries from 1836 to 1890 of Grand Duke Konstantin, the second son of Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra, reveal rare insights of imperial sittings with the portrait painter Franz Xavier Winterhalter.
Konstantin, his wife Alexandra Iosifovna and their eight year old son Nikolai left St. Petersburg on October 8th 1858 for a long journey through Europe.
Sailing from Genoa they anchored in Villafranche on November 24th where his cousin Catherine, the daughter of Mikhail Pavlovich, had a villa. Four days later on the 28th Franz Winterhalter arrived at their villa in Nice.
The following day Konstantin wrote that ‘Winterhalter began the portrait of my wife and from the first strokes of the brush grabbed the resemblance. But for a long time they were busy choosing the place for the sitting and the lighting!’ After lunch on November 30th, Konstantin returned to their villa and found ‘Winterhalter continued to paint my wife’ and on the 1st of December ‘Winterhalter painted my wife’s portrait all day which comes out surprisingly similar’.
Winterhalter’s portrait (below) of Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna
After the ceremony of the laying of the foundation of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas and St. Alexandra and lunch with the dignitaries on December 2nd, Konstantin wrote ‘Winterhalter began to paint my portrait’.
Photograph (below) of Église Saint-Nicolas-et-Sainte-Alexandra in Nice
The next day the grand duke went to Villafranche in the morning and on returning to Nice ‘Winterhalter continued with my portrait. It seems it will also be good’. On December 4th Konstantin had to wait! ‘Winterhalter painted in the morning another client and after lunch me’.
Winterhalter’s painting of the grand duke is lost. A lithograph (below) of Konstantin in 1859 may be a copy of it.