The recent catalogue of Victorian Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has helped me to shed light on the portrait in the collection of Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, known hitherto only as Damenbildnis [see no 321, Works by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1846-1850].
The painting can now be fully identified as a portrait of Augusta Großherzogin von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916), née Princess of Cambridge, painted at Windsor Castle between 7 and 16 October 1846.
The following research information backs up my suggestion:
- A miniature enamel copy of this portrait (5.0 x 4.0 cm) by John Simpson (1811-aft 1871), signed, dated, and identified as a copy after Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s portrait of Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, of 1846, is in the collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 421918).
- A further copy of this portrait by Henry Melville (fl 1846-86) (oil on canvas, 61 x 50.8 cm, oval), is also in the collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 406676).
- Both copies were commissioned by Queen Victoria after the original portrait by F.X. Winterhalter, which was given to the sitter’s husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Großherzog von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1819-1904).
- The portrait was commissioned by Queen Victoria from Franz Xaver Winterhalter, who was in England from September 1846 to February 1847 [Oliver Millar, Victorian Pictures, 1: 284]
- One of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, Hon. Eleanor Stanley, wrote in a letter from Windsor Castle, dated 7 October 1846: “I was on the whole day with some Royalty or other, as the Grand Duchess [of Mecklenburg] sat for her picture from eleven till two to Winterhalter, and desired [me] to go and sit with her… After lunch she had another sitting, and I attended again till four o’clock, when she went out driving with the Queen…” [Eleanor Stanley, Letters (London: 1916), 136].
- The portrait is mentioned in Queen Victoria’s diary in an entry for 16 October 1846, where the portrait is described as ‘quite beautiful & so boldly, as well as finely painted’ [Oliver Millar, Victorian Pictures (London: 1992), 1: 326].
- It was given as a joint present from Queen Victoria and the Dowager Queen Adelaide to the sitter’s husband, then the Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, on 17 October 1846 [ibid].
- The portrait is mentioned on the list of portraits by F.X. Winterhalter, published posthumously by the artist’s nephew, Franz Wild, in 1894, where it appears among other 1846 portraits by the artist [Franz Wild, Neckrologe…, 38].
A confirmation has been recently received from the Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, accepting this identification.
© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2012