Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873)
“Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff” (1859)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, United States
The twenty-four-year-old countess depicted here was the wife of Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, a Russian aristocrat and Francophile. The book of English poetry in her lap is thought to be a reference to her father, Ivan Alexandrovitch Beck, a poet and translator. Her choice of a fashionable day dress may have been suggested by Winterhalter, who is known to have advised his sitters on their wardrobe and posed them to their best advantage in his studio.
The Wishing fabric, designed by a husband-and-wife team in the UK, has been used for Christine’s blue Wishing dress since 1986, and is still in use. It has also been used in other movies and TV series; for example in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Piano (1993), Forsyte Saga (2002) and Lincoln (2012).
But the inspiration is floral/stripy fabrics from the mid and late 18th century, where this style was at its height. The Rococo fabrics were woven with threads in different colours, and usually featured alternating stripes and floral girlands or ranks of flower. Red/rust/pink is reoccuring colours, but blye, green and white was also popular. The mid/late 19th century got a Rococo revival in art, architecture and fashion, the latter sparked by designer Worth, which is why this type of fabric also got a revival, and why it appears in Christine’s Wishing dress.
Here’s some examples (credit in captions), along with the Wishing fabric.