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Portrait of Princess Louise of Stolberg, Countess of Albany

François-Xavier Fabre (Montpellier 1776 – Paris 1837)

Oil on canvas
93 x 73 cm
1890 n. 1008

This is the companion piece to the portrait of Vittorio Alfieri [vedi scheda], probably painted at a later date, but also has a sonnet composed by the poet on its reverse side, as follows: “Di quanti ha pregi la mia Donna eccelsi/ (cui più il conoscer che il narrar mi è dato)/ quello per cui da me stesso io svelsi/ e il cor d’alta bontà si ben dotato./ Questa in mille virtù da prima io scelsi,/ e più assai che beltade hammi allacciato:/ questa dopo anni ed anni ancor riscelsi/ per vera base al mio viver beato,/ Non che i suoi brevi sdegni ella non senta;/ Né che pur tarda ed impossibil sia:/ Ma vie men sempre al perdonare è lenta./ Nel suo petto non entra invidia ria;/ I benefizi al doppio ognor rammenta;/ Le offese, in un coll’offensore oblia. Firenze, 18 agosto 1794. Compie quest’oggi il second’anno appunto/ che agli schiavi cannibali assassini/ io lei sottrassi; e diemmi Apollo il punto. V.A.”.

A dedication to his love, esteemed for her noble soul and intellectual affinities, who shared his passion for art and literature, becoming the centre of an exceptionally elegant salon of artists and writers in Florence.  Fabre captures her elegance in a portrait that neither conceals nor embellishes her features, preferring instead a reserved, thoughtful style that is perhaps tinted by a slight melancholy. Both paintings were bequeathed to the painter, who then donated them to the Uffizi, which they came to in 1824, the year of Louise Stolberg’s own death. The Countess had had the poet’s remains buried in a monument commissioned from Antonio Canova, still visible in the nave of Santa Croce, where she too is commemorated by a neo-Renaissance piece in a minor chapel.  Together, they were exhibited in the “room used for the French School... commended for the excellence of the works and the quality of the subjects”, which decreed their unequivocal status as official iconography.

Text by
Alessandra Griffo
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