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Permanent Collection


Ernst Christian Moser

(Graz, 1815−1867)

A Woman of Celje in White
1844, oil, canvas, 29,8 x 24,5 cm
signed and dated lower right: E. Moser / 13/7 844

NG S 2636, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The three-quarter length portrait of a young lady is rendered in a simple yet sophisticated manner. The painting is devoid of any superfluous objects that would draw the viewer’s attention away from its subject. This lack of objects is also a conscious choice dictated by the small format of the painting. The subject is seated in an armchair with a backrest, the colour of which complements and emphasises the woman’s blue eyes, which in turn enliven her face, painted with precise brushwork. The face, décolletage and hands are painted in soft pink, while the slight blush on the woman’s cheeks suggests both healthiness and the faint air of embarrassment deemed desirable in young ladies, including newly married ones, in a patriarchal society. The woman’s hairstyle and dress are typical of the 1840s. Her hair is parted in the middle and falls in gentle spirals down the sides of the face, while the hair at the back is coiled tightly at the nape of the neck. The white dress – a colour that was very popular for evening dresses of the time – reveals bare shoulders. The sleeves are slightly flared and lack any embellishment. The painting is dominated by the luminosity of the precious fabric of the dress. The narrow waistline emphasises the ethereality of the figure, which appears vividly present despite her Biedermeier-style characterisation.

Biedermeier and Romanticism
Heavily censored public life between the Congress of Vienna and the Spring of Nations in 1848, weakened Church patronage, and the ascending middle class marked the era when life focused on the privacy of the family circle, individual dignity and the sense of belonging; this is expressed in the Central European art as the style of Biedermeier which coexisted with a Romantic view of nature. 

Portraiture was the genre of painting that saw its heyday in this era. Matevž Langus, Jožef Tominc, Mihael Stroj and Anton Karinger established themselves as individually formed portraitists who demonstrated their self-confidence as artists also through their self-portraits. The painters initially relied on formal characteristics of Neoclassicism. Stroj’s late portraits and particularly those by Karinger abandoned the Biedermeier manner and adopted a more realistic approach. 

Interest in landscape first appeared as the background of portraits; towards the mid-century first autonomous city vedute emerged. The Biedermaier landscape is idyllic, descriptive, and furnished with staffage figures. Painters were attracted by tourist destinations and locations that were related to homeland identity: Mt. Triglav, Lake Bohinj, Bled. Anton Karinger and Marko Pernhart established themselves as explicit landscapists. The latter became famous for his multi-part panoramas from mountain peaks. 

Still lifes became an attractive decoration of a middle-class home, and they also found favour with amateur women painters, one of whom was Countess Maria Auersperg Attems.