Franz von Lenbach

Self portrait of the artist with his daughter Marion


Dorotheum, Wien, Auktion, 16.10.2012, Los 175.


Lenbach’s portraits not only attest to a high representational value in the sense of social rank; early on, they also reveal an effort to capture the individuality of the models psychologically. Especially in his portraits of children, he succeeded in capturing that direct, unaffected expression that flashes in a child’s eyes and, conversely, allows us to look deep into the child’s soul. His first-born daughter Marion (1892-1947), the result of his marriage to Magdalena Countess von Moltke, was one of his favourite models. Studio visitors report that the little girl with the light blonde, angelic hair eagerly took part in the portrait sessions, letting her father put her in 18th century costumes, but also in homemade knight’s armour made of papier-mâché. Marion Lenbach is just two years old in this double portrait, which shows her in an intimate embrace, in the almost clinging grip of her father. The girl, her cheek nestled against her father’s beard, looks at the viewer with eyes oblivious to the world. Lenbach’s gaze, on the other hand, is very serious, perhaps even anxious, as if this depiction anticipates his fear of loss in view of the divorce that would be finalised two years later. It was agreed that Marion would grow up in the villa on Königsplatz with her father and his new wife Lolo von Hornstein, while her sister Erika would henceforth live with her mother. In a palette that picks up the colour of the background or allows it to shine through, and in a glazed painting technique, Lenbach clearly focuses on the faces, while rendering the bodies and the surrounding space only cursorily.

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