Oil on canvas.
Signed, located and dated on the right : "Ary Scheffer / Esher 1857".
H. 77 x L. 63 cm (H. 30 5/6 x W. 25 5/6 inches).
On the back, inventory mark and number of the collection of Isabel de Orleans y Borbón, comtesse de Paris (1848-1919), stamped with black ink : Y° 607, and a number 800 with black chalk, on the upper left part of verso of the frame, and also on the upper stretcher, corresponding to the exhibition in the gallery of the Dukes of Montpensier.
Preserved in its original richely carved and gilt wooden frame, from Louis-Philippe period, possibly made by Scheffer.
- Commandé au peintre par la reine Marie-Amélie (1782-1866), veuve du roi Louis-Philippe, à Claremont House.
- Commissioned to the painter by Queen Maria-Amelia (1782-1866), King Louis-Philippe's widow, at Claremont House.
- Her son, Antoine d’Orléans (1824-1890), duke of Montpensier, duke of Galliera, infant of Spain.
- His daughter, Isabelle of Orléans-Bourbon (1848-1919), infanta of Spain and countess of Paris, since her wedding with Louis-Philippe d’Orléans (1838-1894), duke of Orléans, count of Paris.
- Her son, Ferdinand d'Orléans (1884-1924), duke of Montpensier.
- His wife Isabel (1924-1958), duchess of Montpensier, born González de Olañeta, marquess de Valdeterazo,
- Her second husband, José María de Huarte (1898-1969), marquess widow de Valdeterazo.
- Private collection, France.
Galeria del duque de Montpensier, Palacio Real de San Telmo, Sevilla, on
temporary loan (n°800), from circa 1860 to presumably after 1897.
- Ary Scheffer, Christ crowning with thorns Queen Maria Amelia (c. 1857), oil on board, 40.3 x 27.7 cm, Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, inv. DM/S/100, bequested by Cornelia Marjolin-Scheffer in 1899.
- Ary Scheffer, Christ crowning with thorns Queen Maria Amelia (1857), black chalk on paper, 21 x 16.5 cm, inscribed, with red ink : "Ary Scheffer / Le Christ couronnant / d’épines la reine Marie-Amélie / Fait en Angleterre / 1857", Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, inv. DM/S/T215.
- Ary Scheffer, Queen Maria Amelia as a widow (1857). Paris, Musée de la Vie Romantique, inv. 2009.1.
- Archives Nationales, 300 AP I 165 (for the commission contract).
- Letter from Ary Scheffer to Arie Johannes Lamme, July 14th 1857, Scheffer Archives, Dordrecht Museum.
- L’Espagne et le Portugal, au point de vue artistique, monumental et pittoresque, J. Laurent & Cie, 1872, p. 103.
- Guide du touriste en Espagne et au Portugal, J. Laurent & Cie, 1879, p. 132.
- Ary Scheffer 1795-1858 (dessins, aquarelles, esquisses à l’huile), exh. cat.,
Paris, Institut Néerlandais, October-November 1980, p. 112 (ill. under
- L. Ewals, Ary Scheffer, sa vie, son oeuvre, doctorate thesis for Nijmegen
University, 1987, p. 335, 415 (ill. under n° 115).
- Ary Scheffer 1795-1858, exh. cat., Paris, musée de la Vie Romantique, April-July 1996, p. 110.
Despite the 1848 Revolution, who threw the Orleans family out of the french throne and on the way to a neverending exile, Ary Scheffer (ill. 1), their former drawing teacher, kept for them an incandescent loyalty and esteem, staying in touch with them by letters ; keeping in his workshop works of arts they weren’t able to ship ; and paying them no less than four visits in Belgium, Germany or England, for joyful or tragical motives.
His 1857 visit, during spring, was first motivated by the Manchester "Exhibition of Art Treasures" where he exhibited eleven of his most important works. Despite his bad health, Scheffer was excited by the idea of seeing in one comprehensive focus, so vast an assemblage of works by both modern artists and old masters; and, his son-in-law consenting to allow Cornélie, Ary’s cherished daughter, to accompany him, he set forth in the month of May, and accepted the cordial offer of Madame Salis Schwabe to make her house his home during his stay at Manchester.
From London, Scheffer repaired to the neighbourhood of Claremont (ill. 2), (his daughter and nephew Ariel in company with him) in order to fulfil a promise he had made, many years ago, to paint a portrait of Queen Maria Amelie and an allegorical painting showing « Jesus Christ crowning the queen ». It was the last part of a 100.000 francs deal, closed with Bocher, Orleans’s superintendent, in which the painter agreed to restore two of his works : Faust in his cabinet (ill. 3), and to execute a second version of Marguerite and her spinning wheel (ill. 4), two of his works highly damaged in the 1848 criminal fire of Neuilly residence. Some few weeks were consecrated to the two portraits, during which period Scheffer's health and spirits continued to derive benefit ; as well from the tranquil tenor of his existence, as from the pleasing communion which, in the pursuit of his daily labours, he enjoyed in the friendly circle at Claremont (ill. 5).
As he wrote to his cousin Arie Johannes Lamme, on July 14th 1857 : « By the way, I painted a picture for the Queen, depicting her with Christ putting his crown of thorns on her head. Even if the subject wasn’t easy, I did it well, and he earned a great success ». Maria Amelia supposedly chose this subject due to the many spiritual challenges she faced troughout her life : the deaths of her third daughter Françoise (1818), her fourth son Charles (1828), her second daughter Marie (1839), her first son and crown heir Ferdinand-Philippe (1842), her first daughter Louise (1850), and her husband Louis-Philippe (1850). These challenges certainly echoed with Scheffer’s own, who was heartbroken after his brother Arnold’s death in 1853. In a reply to Queen Maria Amelia’s condoleance letter, he then wrote : « I’ve lost my alltime friend, the one with who I shared all my dreams of liberty, of glory (…). Now, Madam, I’m alone, and old. It is very hard to live in the most troubled times of mankind. One can only wish to disapear in himself. ». In 1856, he had also face his friend Augustin Thierry’s death. The portrait of the Queen as a widow (ill. 6) was also applaused, by Ludovic Vitet, as « in its way, a masterpiece ; expressive of the energy and the resignation of a noble soul, joined with the mingled sorrows and hopes of a tender and Christian character”. The Queen’s commission finished, Scheffer made his dispositions to set forth, some time in July, for the residence of Madame Salis Schwabe (now a widow,) situated on the shores of the Menai Straits, in the Isle of Anglesea, North Wales.
At his return in France, visibly tormented by new friend’s deaths : Daniele Mainin (September 22nd), Eugène Cavaignac (October 28th), he executed several religious paintings, among them three are almost a visual repetition of Christ crowning Queen Maria Amalia : Ecce Homo (ill. 7), Christ sharing the bread with John (ill.8),and Judas’s kiss (ill.9). This intense activity cheered his entourage, letting them think that his health was recovering, but, on the opposite, it was a symptom of a latent burnout.
During spring 1858, following princess Helen’s death, he travelled to Claremont, against the will of his family, friends and doctors : « It is a sacred duty and no one in the world will ever stop me ». The funeral were his last moment with his royal friends. Few days after in return in France, he expiated, June 15th, making Christ crowning Queen Maria Amalia, even more than his very last royal commission but also the matrix of his last religious paintings and therefore his last spiritual and artistical breath.