Princess Mathilde

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, French, 1827 - 1875

Made in Paris, France, Europe



Height: 37 inches (94 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 151, European Art 1850-1900, first floor (Colket Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Fiske Kimball Fund and with funds contributed by the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1978

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A cousin and close friend of the French Emperor Napoleon III, Princess Mathilde was one of the liveliest figures of the Paris cultural and social scene. Her haughty gaze evokes the grand manner of French aristocratic portraiture of previous centuries.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Princess Mathilde was the cousin of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who declared himself Emperor Napoleon III of France in 1852. As his official hostess until his marriage and through her alliance with the Superintendent of Fine Arts, Count Alfred Nieuwerkerke, she became the second most powerful woman in France and, by virtue of her interest in the visual arts, a great force in the making of taste and artists' reputations. Mathilde's request that Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux sculpt her portrait in 1861 was therefore a critical step in his official ascendancy, and laid the foundation for him to receive a series of commissions from the imperial family and the state. Her faith in this artist steeped in the traditions of Hellenistic sculpture and Michelangelo's Rome would prove to be well founded, for Carpeaux broke completely with the conservative classicism of sculptural portraiture of the time, returning instead to the full-blown representationalism of seventeenth-century French sculpture--aloof and splendid and tremendously alive. Joseph J. Rishel, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 190.

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