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The Empress Eugénie surrounded by her ladies in waiting
Artist WINTERHALTER Franz-Xaver (1805-1873)
Date 1855
Official portraitist for the royal courts of Europe, Franz-Xavier Winterhalter was the favourite painter of the Empress Eugénie. Indeed, Eugénie most probably used her own personal fortune to pay for this renowned collective portrait representing the sovereign in 1855 surrounded by her ladies in waiting. Hung in Fontainebleau Palace during the Second Empire, the work finally given to the empress in 1881, where it was hung in the entrance to her residence in Farnborough Hill.

Taking its inspiration from 18th-century bucolic scenes, this monumental composition sets the sovereign and her entourage against the backdrop of a shady clearing in a forest. However, the composition is very artifical and formal. The empress, slightly to the left of centre, is encircled by and dominates the group. To her right sits the Princesse d'Essling, chief lady in waiting, to whom she is offering some honeysuckle. To her left, is the Duchesse de Bassano, matron of honour. Before her sit the Baronne de Pierres and the Vicomtesse de Lezay-Marnésia, both ladies in waiting. In the foreground is Comtesse de Montebello; to the right are three other ladies in waiting, the Baronne de Malaret, the Marquise de Las Marismas and the Marquise de la Tour-Maubourg. In striking contrast to the rustic setting, the ladies in waiting rival each other in vestimentary luxury. Each one is wearing her finest ball gown, thus giving the painter a pretext for a virtuoso display of material painting, even to the detriment of the likenesses. In fact the real subject of this glorification of the crinoline is the silk, tulle, muslin, taffeta, lace and ribbons. Only the simplicity of the jewelry seems to match the pastoral setting.

The work is particularly revealing with respect to extreme refinement typical of the court. Indeed this same pomp was displayed at the opening of the Paris Exposition universelle of 1855, the first major official manifestation of the imperial regime and an important stage in terms of international recognition of the regime. This painting was exhibited on that occasion in the Salon d'honneur, and (despite the official censor) was discreetly pilloried by the art press. Théophile Gautier spoke of the "coquettish and brilliant style […] a little too obsessed with elegance" and Gustave Planche severely criticised this "parody of Watteau" where the "dresses were excessively coquettishly spread out but contained nothing whatsoever". Despite critical scorn, the painting was and still is a huge public success.

Karine Huguenaud (tr. P.H.)
Technique oil on canvas
Dimensions H. 3 m; W. 4.20 m
Where held Compiègne, Musée national du château
Credits © RMN
Text courtesy of http://www.napoleon.org/en/essential_napoleon/key_painting/files/winterhalter_eugenie_ladies.asp

Come out to Camp Manassas at Jennie Dean Elementary School and enjoy the Sesquicentennial Tableau Fashion Show, part of the 150th commemoration. Enjoy an interpretation of Empress Eugenie and her Court by Winterhalter. Gowns shown are by Heritage Creations by Donna and period jewelry is provided by Ortega Traders.

HERITAGE CREATIONS - Donna Huffman Pelot - Custom-made ladies dresses & gowns

On to the ladies fashion show! Every dress you are about to see was painfully recreated from the Winterhalter painting of Princess Eugenia, one of the fashion icons from the Civil War era......

They were exquisite, rendered in period correct fabrics, laces and trims - stunning detail, especially in comparison to the painting!

This dress reminded me of a combination of a wedding cake and of one of Cinderella's dresses at Disneyland.

While it was a young lady - the hair puzzled me.

Favorite dress of the line, a light, airy silk overlay that was a transparent stripe. Stunning. Note the fabric treatment on the bodice, how the stripes on this gossamer silk were sewed in. The detail was exquisite in person, thoroughly lovely in every way with a "flow" that was simple, elegant and beautiful! She shimmered so beautifully.

Note the back of the dress and how this fabric was stitched on the bodice!

Detail on the gossamer bodice took my breath away. The light was terrible, we did the best we could to capture it!

Lovely dress, beautifully scalloped edges (cut with a scallop) and hair that was perfectly coiffed.

Tableau dress from the famous Winterhalter painting of the Empress Eugenie, surrounded by her ladies in waiting!

Dress was amazing, hair was a struggle. Recreating a painting, but it looked bad prom

Detail of the multi-layers of lace on the skirt

Sheer overlay, the dress was beyond lovely in person!

Each tableau model was wearing exquisite jewelry from the era, from Ortega Traders, narrated by Anita Lauramore. http://www.ortegatraders.com/

This dress had so much movement, it was impossible to capture!

Lady on the right created ALL of these gorgeous dresses, and told the story of each one, where the lace, fabric and trims came from. Time after time, she found the ideal fabric in silk, or silk lace and it was $50+ per yard.....and she had to keep searching!

Narrating, the one and only Donna Huffman Pelot - of Heritage Creations who stitched each of these stunning gowns!

Jewelry by Anita Lauramore of Ortega Traders http://www.ortegatraders.com/

Spring sunshine!

The Princess

The Princess

In 1855 Winterhalter painted his masterpiece: The Empress Eugénie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting. He set the French Empress in a pastoral setting gathering flowers in a harmonious circle with her ladies in waiting. The painting was acclaimed, and exhibited in the universal exposition in 1855. It remains Winterhalter's most famous work.

From http://enchantedserenityperiodfilms.blogspot.com/2009/05/empress-eugenie-as-painted-by.html

The empress, who is holding a bunch of violets, is surrounded by: the Princesse d'Essling, grande-maîtresse,
the Baronne de Pierres, and Vicomtesse de Lezay-Marnésia, all dames du palais (to the left), and the Duchesse de Bassano, dame d'honneur, the Comtesse de
Montebello, the Baronne de Malaret, the Marquise de Las Marismas and the Marquise de la Tour-Maubourg, all dames du palais (to the right).
Photo and text courtesy of http://www.napoleon.org/

 This is the painting, Duchess Eugenia and her Ladies in Waiting!