The politician, deputy and diplomat Baron Jožef Schwegel (1836–1914) was interested in diplomacy from an early age, and after finishing his studies at the St Aloysius institute, where he was a classmate of Stritar, he decided to study at the Vienna Oriental Academy, a school created to train diplomatic staff expected to continue their careers mainly in the Orient. After graduating in 1859, his first posting was at the Austrian Consulate General in Alexandria in Egypt. He was later elevated to the rank of Baron in recognition of his conscientious consular service and achievements such as overseeing the visit of Emperor Franz Joseph I to Egypt and establishing the Austro-Egyptian Bank. While stationed in Egypt, his finances improved significantly. He also collaborated with local archaeologists and kept up with archaeological discoveries. He was later appointed Consul General in Istanbul, and in 1873 he established the Oriental section of the World’s Fair in Vienna. In 1879, Schwegel became a representative of Carniolan landowners in the Imperial Council House of Deputies in Vienna. He also held several mandates in the Carniolan Provincial Assembly, where he was credited with the construction of railways. In his memoirs, Fran Šuklje gave the following description of his “determined political opponent, with whom he had been in close contact for 31 years”: “He was short rather than tall, yet stocky and broad-shouldered, his hair and beard were yellowish, or better flaxen, and later snow-white, his eyes were light grey, his gaze sharp, his features bold, tremendously energetic.”
In 1887, Alojz Gangl painted a portrait of Baron Jožef Schwegel. It is softer in treatment than Šuklje’s portrait from a year earlier, and the face is more individualised. The clothing is not symmetrical, and the left end of the neck scarf juts out from under the coat in a vibrant way.
In his will, the Baron bequeathed his artistic estate to the Carniolan Provincial Museum. The portrait was purchased by the National Gallery from a private owner in 1975.