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Queen Theresa of Bavaria (born Princess of Saxe-Hildburghausen)
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Description

Friedrich Dürck was the immensely talented nephew of the royal Bavarian court painter Joseph Stieler (1781-1858), who in 1822 invited him to continue his education in Munich under his direction. Despite his uncle’s influence, Peter von Langer, director of the Mannheim “Antikensaal”, the school for younger artists,  initially considered the sixteen year-old Friedrich too immature and refused him entry. Stieler’s faith in his nephew’s talents, however, proved justified and, two years later, Dürck was admitted to the Munich academy of fine arts. Dürck at the same time became responsible in his uncle’s studio for the production of an increasing number of the portraits for which Stieler had earned his prominent position as the leading artist in the service of the Bavarian kings.

 

Dürck’s father was a wealthy businessman who lost his fortune in the post-Napoleonic turmoil, due to poor speculation; he was fortunate to be appointed to be an inspector of the royal hunting lodge at Hubertusburg, bringing with this position a comfortable residence. Friedrich, whose artistic imagination is said to have been awakened by a wounded soldier quartered with the Dürck family, initially received art lessons at the Leipzig Art Academy, where he studied oil painting and portraiture.  His uncle’s invitation to move to Munich proved decisive in his career.  He soon begin to produce versions of his uncle’s commissions, not only the exquisitely painted small versions but also larger scale paintings done on behalf of his uncle. Among the most notable was his version of Stieler’s famous portrait of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as well as the superb portrait of Queen Therese.

 

In 1828, Dürck began his own, independent career, escaping from his uncle’s shadow by exhibiting a portrait publicly under his own name for the first time and soon acquiring a reputation as a successful painter to the Munich nobility and merchant class in his own right.  Wanting to broaden his knowledge, he traveled to Italy in 1836, spending much of the next year in Rome and Florence. After returning to Munich and with his uncle having retired due to poor health, he soon established a highly successful career at the Bavarian court, supported by the patronage of King

Ludwig I.  In 1849 he accepted an invitation to the Swedish court to paint members of the royal family and in 1854 to the Austrian court in Vienna. From about 1860 he began to paint genre and costume pictures, typical of the taste of the time, while continuing his career as a portraitist of the Bavarian royal and noble families.[1]

 

In 1861 the former King,[2] Theresa’s husband Ludwig I, commissioned Dürck to create two more portraits (of Anna von Greiner and Carlotta Freiin von Breidbach-Bürresheim), for his gallery of beauties (today in Nymphenburg Palace), a project begun by Dürck’s uncle, Joseph Stieler, and the only works not officially by his uncle in the collection. This collection of thirty-six portraits of women included members of the king’s own family as well as nobles and commoners, some being among the king’s many lovers, representing an extraordinary attestation to his romantic infidelities as well as his susceptibility to feminine beauty.

 

Queen Theresa (1792-1854) was a daughter of Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg, and Duchess Charlotte Georgine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, eldest daughter of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. As a child she had grown up in the rather modest capital of her father’s small duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and not in his later capital of Altenburg, which he acquired after the Saxon dukes reorganised their states in 1826. In 1809, Theresa had been on the list of possible brides for Napoleon, but following the latter’s marriage to the Archduchess Marie-Louise, she married the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, on 12 October 1810. Their wedding was the occasion of the first ever Oktoberfest, which has been repeated almost every year since.

 

Her husband succeeded as king in 1825 but his numerous love affairs caused her some pain, which she tolerated while refusing to allow his mistresses to attend her at court. On one occasion, in 1831, she left the capital to make her disapproval clear – nonetheless, despite the difficulties in their marriage she was the mother of nine children, the oldest, Maximilian, succeeding as king when Ludwig was deposed following the 1848 revolution. Therese proved to be a capable royal consort, heading the government during her husband’s frequent foreign trips, and having some considerable political influence. She was particularly popular with the Bavarian public and was considered the embodiment of an idealised image of queen, wife and mother and was involved in a great number of charitable organisations for widows, orphans and the poor. She was the object of great sympathy during her husband’s very public infidelity with the notorious courtesan, Lola Montez, which contributed to the demands for his abdication in 1848.

This painting must be particularly noted for the extraordinary attention to the queen’s silk embroidered robes, her bracelets, necklace and earrings and the splendid tiara placed alongside the royal crown. Her robe is embroidered with gold leaves and flowers and along the bottom edge the blue and silver diamond lozenges of the Wittelsbach arms are sewn into gold edged ovals. An ermine robe hangs from over her shoulder to the ground and in her left hand she holds a gold bejewelled fan. Despite its small scale this superbly executed portrait holds the viewer’s attention in every detail, and is a testament to the artist’s mastery of grand, royal portraiture.

Stair Sainty.

Measurements
57 x 42 cm
Type
oil on canvas
Where is It?
Matthiesen Gallery
Historical Period
Neoclassicism - 1780-1820 & Romanticism - 1810-1870
Price band
$50,000 - $100,000