Imperial portraits

5 January 2010

A beautiful collection of conversation piece portraits of the Empress Maria Theresa and her family, painted by Martin Van Meytens in 1763. This work depicts Maria Theresa with her favourite children: the Archduke Joseph (later Joseph II), his wife Isabella of Bourbon-Parma and the Archduchess Maria Christina. It is said that Isabella and Maria Christina had a bit of a thing for each other, which, if it is true must have caused issues as Joseph was passionately in love with his wife and mourned for a long time after her premature death of small pox in the same year as this portrait was painted.

This painting shows the Emperor Franz Stephen with the Archduke Leopold and the Archduchesses Maria Anna and Maria Elizabeth. Maria Anna was the eldest of the Imperial couple’s daughters but was often ill and had frail health. Maria Elizabeth was reputed to be the most lovely of the archduchesses but was to be disfigured by small pox, which sadly put an end to her hopes of making a splendid marriage. There was even talk at one point of marrying her to Louis XV.

This painting shows the Archduchesses Maria Amalia and Maria Josepha with their brother, the Archduke Ferdinand. Amalia is in white with one hand on the globe and was the most outgoing and sophisticated of the Imperial princesses. Josepha was to die of smallpox in October 1767, on the day that she was supposed to leave Vienna to marry the King of Naples. Her mother had made her spend the night praying in the Imperial burial vaults and the unfortunate girl had caught smallpox from the insufficiently sealed up tomb of her former sister in law, Josepha of Bavaria.

Portrait of the Archduchesses Maria Carolina, Maria Antonia (later Marie Antoinette), the Archduke Max and also Maria Theresa,  the small daughter of Joseph and Isabella of Bavaria who was born in 1762 and so must have been a toddler when this work was painted.