19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Maria Alexandranova in double

No one could agree on anything from last week’s Rate the Dress.  Some loved the colours, some didn’t.  Some thought the sleeves too big, others adored them.  The low neckline and high camisa were popular with some readers, and deemed awkward by others.  And while some of you thought the model looked astonishingly modern and real, others found her a bit, well, red-eyed vampirish.  All in all, Bronzini’s Lady in Green rated an 8.4 out of 10.

This week I present something entirely unprecedented: one woman, in one ensemble, as portrayed by two different artists.  You already know the artists and the model as you have rated Maria Alexandrovna in the past (she got a 6.5).

Both Winterhalter and Ivan Makarov painted Maria Alexandrovna (yes, the Victorian Kristen Stewart) in a muted ensemble, lavishly trimmed in lace, and draped in pearls.

I haven’t been able to determine if one portrait was taken from the other, or if both painters painted Maria from life (and if so, at the same time?). Certainly the poses and fall of the draperies are suspiciously similar, though Winterhalter’s portrait implies the dress has a skirt of full tiers of lace, and Makarov’s portrait implies that the silk satin of the dress is blue-grey in colour.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Portrait of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, 1857, Hermitage

Ivan Makarov, Portrait of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, ca 1857

So, a challenge for you dear readers! You have already rated Maria Alexandrovna once. Now you get the opportunity to see her in a whole new light. Or lights. How do you feel about the dress now that you can see how two different artists saw and painted it? Would you have liked one version, but not the other?  Will she rate better than she did in the past?

And how do you Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the combined effect?


  1. This is beautiful, I love Winterhalter. And since I am biased I choose the Winterhalter one and give it a 9.5 Not only is this from one of my favorite eras, but the lighting is so pretty and soft. You can’t help but want to jump in the painting

  2. It’s gorgeous, I love the muted colours, ruffled sleeves and bows down the front. I also like the fact it has a low neckline and the pears look fantastic with it.

    I’m going to give it a 9, purely because I think the think the skirt ruffles would be nicer if they covered the full length of the skirt and I don’t like the pearls in her hair.

  3. I love the pearls, pearls everywhere. Didn’t pearls used to stand for tears? She looks world-weary, the direct gaze and firm mouth, her heavily lidded eyes in the middle of all that froth and finery. You’re making me want to dig around and find out about her life. 10 for character.

    For what my opinion’s worth, I think the second looks like slightly stylized copy of the first one- such startling echos of Dutch Renaissance use of light… For what it’s worth… I never studied art…

  4. Zsuzsanna says

    I have to disagree with the earlier commenters – she looks like she’s wearing a wedding cake. I’ll give it a 5 because she still looks good in it and because all the detailing on the dress makes me admire the craftsmanship.

  5. I like the Winterhalter version, he captures the delicate lace so well. There is entirely too much lace and things, but it was a time of maximalism so some forgiveness for at least handling it better than others I’ve seen. I don’t like the other version and would be willing to bet it was a copy off the other. This guy doesn’t like painting frills so just did away with them, or maybe because he couldn’t see the obttom fo teh dress he just made it plain! And the background is very 2D as if her sort of made it up, rather than it being real. So overall a 7.

  6. I like both, it shows that even if the painters where standing side by side they see and interpret what they see very diferently that is what makes them masters.
    My first reaction was gag too much bling but then realised the pearls add texture and light to her dark hair and soften it enough for her pale face, almost like a Halo.

  7. The impression I get is that Maria changed the dress between the Winterhalter painting and the other portrait. The whole dress is lace and ruffles in Winterhalter, and then in the second one it appears that the majority of the dress was reduced to silk satin with keeping 2 rows of lace? We cannot be the only ones to recycle parts of our dresses when other styles come into fashion!

    At any rate Winterhalter gets a 10; such attention to detail! Makarov gets an 9: I think it’s his loose style that detracts. Overall, a 9.5

  8. What a wonderful word maximalism. The Winterhalter portrait is a little frothy for me. I prefer the second painting, the gold colour of the lace against the grey blue satin is sublime.

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