The Empress
36" x 48"
acrylic on canvas
Private Collection, Washington, D.C.
John Palmer Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, Intersection, April 9, 2011
Cohn Drennan Contemporary, Dallas, Texas, 387 km, December 1, 2012 - January 5, 2013

The Empress was created in the fall of 2010.  There are times when I create paintings where the imagery calls for my colors and compositions to be more subdued.  This is one of those instances.

The image on the right of the canvas is Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon III.  The portrait is based on an original painting by Franz Winterhalter, a German court painter of the mid 19th century.  I often find this type of portrait and it makes me wonder how such amazing works of art can fade.  most of these portraits are tucked away in dusty corners of museums where they are passed by all the time.  Or worse, they have been relegated to storage in a museum or palace. 

The idea of faded beauty and distance doesn't only apply to the works of such portraitists.  The same concept surrounds the very imperial standing of the sitters.  Napoleon III chose Eugenie as his Empress because of her beauty.  It didn't bode well for an emperor or king to take a wife who wasn't the envy of all the women of the land.  An official portrait captures that youthful beauty forever.  The flowers to the left are also trapped forever in a state of perpetual bloom.  Like the Empress however, it is an artificial stasis.  

As an empress, Eugenie was not only separated from her native Spain, but from society.  The center image at the top, the hand grasping the fence, represents this border.  The divisions that were created between common people and the aristocracy are another form of artificiality.  An imperial portrait such as the one created by Winterhalter would have been created to celebrate the virtues of the Emperor's new empress.  These portraits served as a form of propaganda.  

In the lower center of the work there is a crown that denotes her position in the social hierarchy.  Above it is a diagram of the human heart.  The Empress is one to be loved and admired from afar.  A vision of beauty, grace and unattainability.

Development of The Empress