Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting

Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting

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Title: Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies of honor at the Palace of Fontainebleau.

Author : WINTERHALTER Franz Xaver (1805 - 1873)

Creation date : 1855

Date shown: 1855

Dimensions: Height 300 - Width 420

Technique and other indications: Personal commission from Empress EugenieFull title:The Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies of honor at the Palace of Fontainebleau, June 27, 1867. Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Compiègne website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 90EE6283 / MMPO 941 / RE 2307

Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies of honor at the Palace of Fontainebleau.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Franz-Xaver Winterhalter, who was the official painter of the Orleans dynasty before 1848, became the privileged portrait painter of the imperial family. The sovereign, born Eugenie de Montijo, married for her beauty by Napoleon III in 1853, is represented here at the start of her reign, among her ladies-in-waiting.

This prestigious evocation of the second imperial France underlines the sparkling charm of the court of Napoleon III, which contrasts sharply with the dull years of the bourgeois reign of Louis-Philippe.

Whether at the Tuileries, Fontainebleau or Compiègne, the sumptuous court life of the nascent Second Empire is a tangible sign of the apparent solidity of the new regime and of unprecedented economic prosperity, celebrated by the first Universal Exhibition organized in Paris. in 1855.

Image Analysis

The skilful composition of the work respects protocol: the Empress is slightly off-center but dominates the whole with, immediately at her side, the two most important ladies of her suite: to her right, the princess of Essling, tall. mistress of the House of the Empress; to his left, the Duchess of Bassano, his lady of honor. Six of the thirteen palace ladies are gathered around this main group, on the grass of a clearing shaded by tall trees; from left to right: the Baroness de Pierres, the Countess of Lezay-Marnésia, the Countess of Montebello, the Baroness of Malaret, the Marquise de Las Marismas and the Marquise de Latour-Maubourg. To the right, behind a cluster of lilacs, a basin overflows with honeysuckle. In the background, a narrow vantage point lets glimpse a city in the distance, under the blue of a sky dotted with clouds. The whole offers a harmony of shimmering colors.


Very representative of official art under the Second Empire, this work has an obvious artificial character: court scene in a forest setting, ball gowns worn in broad daylight, luxury of the toilets attenuated by the simplicity of the ornaments and the rarity of the jewelry. , omnipresence of flowers, in the hair, in the hand, on the bodices and in the decor ... Far from corresponding to this image of a wife entirely devoted to the influence of the imperial court, Eugenie indeed exercises, in a clerical and conservative sense , a real political influence on the emperor.

The canvas nevertheless offers documentary interest: it gives a precise image of fashion in the first years of the Second Empire. It illustrates the triumph of the crinoline, a vast cage with metal hoops which inflates the skirts. The toilets are adorned with a profusion of ruffles, gathered lace, and ribbons. This considerable work of making was then facilitated by the invention of the sewing machine, which achieved great success at the Universal Exhibition of 1855. The painting itself occupied pride of place at this same exhibition. It met with immense popular success and was widely distributed and reproduced on calendars or confectionery boxes.

  • women
  • Empress Eugenie (Montijo de)
  • Second Empire
  • court life
  • official portrait


Exhibition catalog Franz-Xaver Winterhalter and the European Courts from 1830 to 1870 Museum of the Petit Palais, 1988 Collective Exhibition catalog The time of crinolines National Museum of the Château de Compiègne, 1953.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "Empress Eugenie surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting"

Video: Franz Xaver Winterhalter 弗朗茲克薩韋爾溫德爾哈爾特 1805-1873 Neoclassicism Romanticism German