Early 19th Century Portrait Oil of Emperor Ferdinand I Austria P737

Early 19th century oil on canvas of a man in military uniform with decorations, painted circa 1825-1840 at the latest. I have had this looked at by an expert in the period and it’s the real thing. Has been professionally relined, with small repairs, mostly some in-painting to the background and some enhancement to the eyes and hair. Measurements are  33″ tall x 27 1/2″ wide, canvas 26″ x 21″.

A strong case can be made for this being a portrait of the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I. What first put us on to this is the Order of The Golden Fleece he wears around his neck, which automatically narrows the field considerably, being only awarded to Spanish or Austrian royalty and, exceptionally, to other grandees and statesmen and military figures of importance. Among the other discernible decorations is that of the order of Saint Theresa which further identifies him as being connected to the Austrian Empire. Further research, and comparison with other extant portraits, and a very helpful letter from a follower in Austria, identify him to our satisfaction as the Emperor.

Framed 28″ x 33″.

Call for pricing. (We give discounts to deposed royalty.)

Ferdinand I (19 April 1793 – 29 June 1875) was Emperor of Austria, President of the German Confederation, King of Hungary and Bohemia (as Ferdinand V), as well as associated dominions from the death of his father (Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor) on 2 March 1835, until his abdication after the Revolutions of 1848. He married Maria Anna of Savoy, the sixth child of Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia. They had no issue. Ferdinand was incapable of ruling his empire because of his mental deficiency, so his father, before he died, drafted a will promulgating that he consult Archduke Louis on every aspect of internal policy, and urged him to be influenced by Prince Metternich, Austria’s foreign minister. He abdicated on December 2, 1848. He was succeeded by his nephew, Francis Joseph. Following his abdication, he lived in Hradčany Palace, Prague, until his death in 1875.

Early life

Ferdinand was the eldest son of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. As a result of his parents’ genetic closeness (they were double first cousins), Ferdinand suffered from epilepsy, hydrocephalus, neurological problems, and a speech impediment. Upon his marriage to Maria Anna of Savoy, the court physician considered it unlikely that he would be able to consummate the marriage. He was educated by Joseph Kalasanz, baron Erberg, and his wife Josephine, née Gräfin von Attems.

Regency

Ferdinand has been depicted as feeble-minded and incapable of ruling, but although he had epilepsy, he kept a coherent and legible diary and has even been said to have had a sharp wit. Having as many as twenty seizures per day, however, severely restricted his ability to rule with any effectiveness.

Though he was not declared incapacitated, a regent’s council (Archduke Louis, Count Kolowrat and Prince Metternich) steered the government. His marriage to Princess Maria Anna of Sardinia (1803–1884) was probably never consummated, nor is he believed to have had any other liaisons. When he tried consummating the marriage, he had 5 seizures. He is famous for his one coherent command: when his cook told him he could not have apricot dumplings (Marillenknödel) because apricots were out of season, he said “I’m the Emperor, and I want dumplings!” (German: Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!).

1848 Revolution

Photograph of the aged Ferdinand dated circa 1870

Photograph of the aged Ferdinand dated circa 1870

As the revolutionaries of 1848 were marching on the palace, he is supposed to have asked Metternich for an explanation. When Metternich answered that they were making a revolution, Ferdinand is supposed to have said “But are they allowed to do that?” (Viennese German: Ja, dürfen’s denn des?) He was convinced by Felix zu Schwarzenberg to abdicate in favour of his nephew, Franz Joseph (the next in line was Ferdinand’s younger brother Franz Karl, but he was persuaded to waive his succession rights in favour of his son) who would occupy the Austrian throne for the next sixty-eight years.

Ferdinand recorded the events in his diary: “The affair ended with the new Emperor kneeling before his old Emperor and Lord, that is to say, me, and asking for a blessing, which I gave him, laying both hands on his head and making the sign of the Holy Cross … then I embraced him and kissed our new master, and then we went to our room. Afterwards I and my dear wife heard Holy Mass … After that I and my dear wife packed our bags.”

Ferdinand was the last King of Bohemia to be crowned as such. Due to his sympathy with Bohemia (where he spent the rest of his life in Prague Castle) he was given the Czech nickname “Ferdinand V, the Good” (Ferdinand Dobrotivý). In Austria, Ferdinand was similarly nicknamed “Ferdinand der Gütige” (Ferdinand the Benign), but also ridiculed as “Gütinand der Fertige” (Goodinand the Finished).

He is interred in tomb number 62 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.