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Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

Louise, Queen of the Belgians with Leopold, Duke of Brabant, later Leopold II, King of the Belgians 1838

Oil on canvas | 123.2 x 104.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 405132

Grand Entrance & Marble Hall, Buckingham Palace

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  • Winterhalter was born in the Black Forest where he was encouraged to draw at school. In 1818 he went to Freiburg to study under Karl Ludwig Schüler and then moved to Munich in 1823, where he attended the Academy and studied under Josef Stieler, a fashionable portrait painter. Winterhalter was first brought to the attention of Queen Victoria by the Queen of the Belgians sending this particular portrait; he subsequently painted numerous portraits at the English court from 1842 till his death.

    Queen Louise was the eldest daughter of King Louis-Philippe, the last king to rule France. She married Leopold I, King of the Belgians and Victoria's uncle, in 1832. Queen Victoria wrote in her Journal that Louise was 'so kind & so good; the more one sees her the more one must love her; she is so thoroughly unselfish, – indeed she never thinks of herself' and 'the dearest friend, after my beloved Albert, I have'. Leopold, her elder son, succeeded his father as King of the Belgians in 1865. His father described him in 1864 as 'more selfish and fantastical than ever'. He had an unhappy marriage and his only son died in 1869. He travelled extensively and provided funds for the acquisition and colonisation of the Belgian Congo, which made him immensely rich by the end of his life. His dissolute private life caused estrangement between him and his English relatives.

    Queen Louise wrote to Queen Victoria in November 1838 that she had a copy of the original painting which she hoped would be ready to send to Victoria for Christmas. She remarked that her son's likeness had been very successfully caught, 'His hair … only turned darker since the picture was made.' On Christmas Eve 1838 Queen Victoria wrote in her Journal: 'I went to look at the picture of herself and little Leopold which Louise has been so kind as to send me; and which is quite lovely, so like her, and beautifully painted (in oils) by a German painter called Winterhalter'.

    Signed and dated: fr. Winterhalter. Paris 1838. Inscribed on the back with the names of artist and sitters and the date …in 1838. / Copy.

    Presented to Queen Victoria by the sitter in 1838; recorded in the Queen's Sitting Room at Buckingham Palace in 1868

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    123.2 x 104.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

  • Category
    Object type(s)
  • Alternative title(s)

    Louise, Queen of the Belgians (1812-1850) with Leopold, Duke of Brabant (1835-1909), later Leopold II, King of the Belgians