Prince Richard and Princess Pauline de Metternich
A.A.E. Disdéri of Paris
A carte-de-visite portrait of Prince Richard de Metternich and his wife, née Pauline Sándor, who was also his niece (actually his half-sister’s daughter).
In 1856 Prince Richard de Metternich was appointed the Austrian ambassador to the court of Napoléon III, and his wife quickly became the life and soul of the Second Empire. Possessed of exquisite taste, although unfortunately not the most beautiful of women, she was known as 'the best dressed monkey in Paris,' a soubriquet she coined herself. Charming, stylish and elegant, she set many trends, becoming a dominant force in the social and cultural life of the capital. It was she who introduced the English couturier Charles Worth to the Empress, and soon every woman in society wanted to be dressed by him.
As a close personal friend of the Empress Eugénie, Pauline was a regular attendant at all the balls at the Tuileries and a frequent house guest at the series of week-long parties held every autumn at the chateau of Compiègne. Whatever Pauline Metternich did or proposed to do, her friend the Empress acceded to her every whim. 'I leave it to you, Pauline' was her usual reply to any suggested plan for some new amusement that Pauline concocted in order to alleviate the boredom of life at court. She and the Princess supposedly once set off together to see what Paris looked like from the top of an omnibus, the pair of them disguised as men, the better to climb the ladder which was at that time the only means of reaching the upper-deck.
Princess Pauline died in Vienna on 18 September 1921. Her memoirs, published posthumously in two volumes, offer a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the French court.
Photographed by the great Disdéri of Paris.
This particular carte-de-visite was copied by Degas for a portrait of the Princess (cropped at the waist, and with her husband omitted altogether) that now hangs in the National Gallery in London. It is one of the earliest known examples of an artist directly copying a photograph.
Condition: the print has good tonal range but presents some small imperfections, including the evidence of the operator’s fingerprint in the collodion on the original glass plate negative at the left hand edge and in the skirt of Richard’s coat. The mount is in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
Dimensions: the dimensions of a standard carte-de-visite are approximately 4.1" by 2.5" (10.5 cm by 6.3 cm).