Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff (Maria Ivanovna Beck), 1859

Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, (Maria Ivanovna Beck, 1835–1866) by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1859

Although trained in Germany, Winterhalter spent most of his adult life in Paris, where he became a favorite portraitist of European aristocrats. In 1841 alone, his sitters included the king and queen of Belgium; King Louis-Philippe of France; and Queen Maria Cristina of Spain. The following year, he added Marie-Amélie, queen of France, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England to his roster of royal models.

The twenty-four-year-old countess depicted here was the wife of Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, a Russian aristocrat and Francophile. The book of English poetry in her lap is thought to be a reference to her father, Ivan Alexandrovitch Beck, a poet and translator. Her choice of a fashionable day dress may have been suggested by Winterhalter, who is known to have advised his sitters on their wardrobe and posed them to their best advantage in his studio.

Maria Ivanovna Beck (1839-1929). Her mother was Maria Arkadevna Beck, née Stolypina, by her second marriage her last name was Vyazemskaya. Maria Ivanovna‘s father was Ivan Alexandrovich Beck (1807-1842), see my post here. Maria Ivanovna Beck married count Aleksandr Nikolaevich Lamsdorf (1835-1902). Here is a painting of her as a toddler with her mother. Maria Ivanovna also had a sister, Vera Ivanovna (1841-1912). Here a water color of the two sisters in my other post here.

NB: the website of the MET Museum has a different date of birth (1835), while the Russian Wikipedia page says her date of birth is 1839. Not sure which is the right one. On the Russian Wikipedia page it also said that her parents married in the year 1837. Then it makes sense that Maria Ivanovna’s date of birth is after the marriage, in 1839.

source: MET Museum

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