Friedrich von Amerling – Portrait of Emilie Lang

Friedrich von Amerling
Vienna 1803 – 1887 Vienna

Portrait of Emilie Lang (c. 1843)
Graphite underdrawing, pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash, on cream wove paper.
153 x 120 mm. | 6 x 4-34 in.

Inscriptions on verso: “165” in pencil, lower right. “53” in a box, in graphite, by lower right edge. Possibly a number in lower left corner, difficult to make out.

Friedrich von Amerling’s Portrait of Emilie Lang typifies Amerling’s milieu–fashionable Biedermeier Vienna. He met Emilie Lang, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish spinning wheel manufacturer, in 1843 and asked for her hand in marriage in 1846, but because of religious differences – Amerling was a Catholic – Lang’s father forbade the marriage. That Amerling had recently divorced and was considerably older than Lang must also have counted against him as a suitor.

Amerling studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (1815 – 1824) with the now unknown Hubert Mauer. His greatest influence, however, was Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Lawrence spent five months in Vienna (1818-19), painting the Allied Victors of the Napoleonic Wars for the Prince Regent, cementing his reputation in Austria. It is unlikely that Amerling met him then, as he was just a young student, but Amerling later lived in London, between 1827 and 1828, during which time he is known to have frequented Lawrence’s studio. Amerling was to become a great collector of paintings and old master drawings and his interest might well have stemmed from Lawrence.

An oil portrait of Emilie Lang by Amerling came up at auction at the Dorotheum (26 Nov. 2007, lot 211) and the pose, particularly the placement of the arms and hands, directly relate to the present drawing. Unfortunately, the painting is colder and less imaginative, the sitter more plain-looking. Details, such as the beautiful striping of the bodice in Lang’s gown, are left out of the picture.

Fritz Koreny, in an email, confirmed the attribution of the present drawing to Friedrich von Amerling.