Eye Candy for Today: Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s portrait of Maria Beck

Portrait of Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff (Maria Ivanovna Beck), Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff (Maria Ivanovna Beck), Franz Xaver Winterhalter

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the download or enlarge links under their image.

Winterhalter’s portrait makes nice use of variation in edges; compare the sharp edges of the cuffs and collar of the dress to the softness at the edges of the hands.

The face and hands are sensitively realized, while the folds in the fabric are wonderfully bold and painterly. I particularly enjoy the way the tree and foliage behind the subject resolve into seemingly casual smudges and smears on close inspection.

The bright red of the cushions to our left, though somewhat balanced by reds in the foliage and the cover of the book, is an interesting standout from the rest of the composition.

It’s also notable how Winterhalter has thrown a shadow across the bottom of the dress in the form of a gentle curve, complementing the curved form of the tree branch above and giving the composition a powerful but naturalistic focus on the subject.

 
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