Johann Friedrich August Tischbein - Portrait of Crown Princess Louise of Prussia, later Queen Louise (unfinished)
Johann Friedrich August Tischbein
Portrait of Crown Princess Louise of Prussia, later Queen Louise (unfinished)
Oil on canvas (oval). 59.5 x 48.5 cm.
This unfinished portrait of the crown princess and later queen Louise of Prussia is, as Helmut Börsch-Supan states in his expertise, indisputably a work by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, the so-called "Leipzig Tischbein". Börsch-Supan connects our painting in particular with the signed full-length portrait of Louise which is today kept in Haus Doorn, the residence of the former Emperor Wilhelm II upon his exile to the Netherlands. Tischbein produced this portrait together with that of Friederike, Louise's sister, in 1796 on commission from the Prussian royal family. At this time, Tischbein was court painter to Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau, but traveled to Berlin for several months in March 1796 to paint the portraits of the two sisters (see Adolf Stoll: Der Maler Joh. Friedrich August Tischbein und seine Familie. Ein Lebensbild nach den Aufzeichnungen seiner Tochter Caroline, Stuttgart 1923, p. 81 ff). Whether our unfinished portrait of Louise was also created in this context cannot be proven, but seems highly likely.
The present work provides a fascinating insight into the Leipzig artist's portrait painting process. The facial features and the drapery of the softly flowing gown are laid out as a preliminary study, whilst the first areas to be rendered in paint are the sitter's skin and the and the still decidedly sketchy landscape background.
Louise, a princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz by birth, married the future King Frederick William III of Prussia in 1793. Already highly revered during her lifetime, following her early death at the age of just 34 she was celebrated for her energetic stand against Napoleon's conquests and glorified as an ideal wife and mother. It is therefore hardly surprising that the portrait of the young and graceful crown princess was always appreciated, even in its unfinished state, and has been preserved to this day.
Prof. Dr. Helmut Börsch-Supan, Berlin, 11.10.2021.