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In 1841, he was summoned by Queen Victoria to the English court.
After painting Queen Victoria in 1842, he returned several times to paint the expansive royal family doing at least 120 works, including a painting commissioned by the Queen which would be given to Prince Albert as a birthday present. Winterhalter painted most of Europe’s royalty (Belgium, France, and England) and the leading aristocracy. His artistic pieces became widely regarded through copies and reproductions.1 Winterhalter did not receive high praise from serious critics. However, his portraits were admired for their sensual nature. His fame among the royals and aristocratic clients was as a result of his ability to create a painting that his clients wanted to display.
In 1843, Winterhalter was commissioned to paint Princess Leonilla’s portrait. The Russian-born Princess Leonilla (1816-1918), one of Winterhalter’s royal clients’ was married to Prince Ludwig Aldof Friedrich, the same year she was painted. In 1833, she sat for Winterhalter for an oval portrait that featured her shadowed face, contrasting dark hair and opaline skin, and magnificent pearls. He also painted her again in 1849.2 However, it is the Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn that overshadows all her paintings. Winterhalter uses an art style known as Romanticism, in which he ‘humanizes’ his clients, by painting with a more objective view of his subject’s features and bringing out their unique beauty.3
In a daring pose, similar to the scenes of harem and odalisques, the portrait lies on a low sofa set on a balcony overlooking lush tropical scenery. Her unassailable social strata made it possible for Winterhalter to utilize such a carnal pose for a large portrait. Recognized for her glowing beauty and intellect, Leonilla is resplendent in a frill dress of ivory silk with a pink sash on her midriff. A deep purple veil folds
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