The Reventlow Sisters, 1840s


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Countess Hilda Sophie Charlotte Reventlow & Countess Malvina Anny Louise Reventlow by August Heinrich Georg Schiøtt, 1840s

Heinrich August Georg Schiøtt was a prominent Danish portrait artist and a member of the Royal Academy. He was awarded the title of professor in 1866. During his active period, he was heavily influenced by Parisian salon painting. Schiøtt was born in Helsingør, the son of customs officer Heinrich Erpecum Schiøtt. As early as in 1846, he won both small and large silver medals from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He painted elegant portraits of members of the Danish aristocracy and even the Royal family. His oeuvre includes a full-figure portrait of Caroline Amalie as the widowed queen from 1858. In 1880, he was dubbed a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog.

With support from the academy, Schiøtt had the opportunity to travel abroad for a few years in the 1850s, and he spent some time in Paris. He embraced the academic portrait painting style in France, whose leading exponent was Franz Xaver Winterhalter who was born in Baden and became court painter to Napoleon III, and French portrait artists such as Edouard Louis Dubufe and Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin.

The elegant above portrait depicts both the Reventlow sisters: Countess Hilda Sophie Charlotte (1828–1900) in a pink shawl and silk sash, and Countess Malvina Anny Louise (1831–57) in a white silk sash. They were the daughters of Frederik Detlef, Count of Reventlow, who was the Royal Chargé d’Affaires and Consul General. The family belongs to one of the oldest and finest noble houses in Denmark. Hilda remained a spinster and served as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Louise at Amelienborg Palace. Malvina married Count Alfred Reventlow-Criminil in 1854.

The painting is an excellent example of the artist’s light and shimmering brush work. Schiøtt excels in fabric painting, and masterfully depicts the porcelain complexion of his models. The entire painting breathes freshness, and the artist reproduces the amiable nature of the sisters with a refined touch. The portrait was originally owned by Count Christian Detlef, the sisters’ brother, and has since passed in inheritance to the current owner.

According to her genealogical sketch, Hilda did not marry. Malvina’s genealogical sketch shows she did marry and died around the age of 26. The Reventlow sisters wear 1840s dresses with full, but unsupported, skirts with vee waists with Hilda wears a neo-hurluberlu coiffure.

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