'Fine Victorian Paintings', Manya Igel, 1981/2, no 2;
'Napoleon and Eugenie', Nassau County Museum of Art, 2009
The picture was noticed at the British Institution by the critic of The Art Journal: ‘A small half-length, having the head supported by the left hand. The features are fresh and clear in colour, and the general treatment is most successful. It exhibits, indeed, a pure, high, and refined feeling for Nature and for Art’ (1847, p 80). Also, the Fine Arts Journal: ‘An exquisitely painted head ... This head is truly a gem’ (1847, vol I, p 5). The sitter has traditionally been identified as The Countess Eugénie de Teba, the future Empress of Napoleon III, whom she married in 1853 (they had met at a reception in Paris; “What is the road to your heart?”, Napoleon demanded to know. “Through the chapel, Sire”, she answered). Certainly there is a physical resemblance, and she was known to wear a mantilla at this time and when it was owned by Christopher Forbes this picture was exhibited in Napoleon and Eugénie at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2009. This identification has since been questioned, because ‘she was still in Madrid that year, in attendance on the Queen of Spain’ (Solomon: A Family of Painters, ILEA, 1985, p 14). But, we have found that Eugénie did not enter the service of the Queen of Spain until 1847, and the picture is dated 1846. Both Eugénie and Solomon were frequent visitors to Paris and so this picture probably is of the future Empress, therefore. Eugénie had recently had an unhappy love affair and she might indeed have been considered sad, in accordance with the title.