AMERLING Friedrich von
Emperor Franz I commissioned works from Amerling, as did many members of Vienna's trend-setting society, whose awareness of life he captured in elegant settings and vivid colours. From the early 30s - he produced his first work for the emperor in 1832 - to approximately 1850, he was Vienna's most celebrated portraitist and, even in his old age, he remained highly esteemed in the metropolis. From 1815-1824, Amerling studied at the Vienna Academy; subsequently he attended the Academy in Prague until 1826. From August 1827 until March 1828, he lived in London. There he applied himself to the study of English art and in particular of the leading portrait painters from Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) to Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). It is thought that Amerling was indebted to Lawrence for the brilliant luminosity and transparency of his colouring.
Likeness of a Girl
An almost identical likeness, entitled "Modest Susanna", was executed in 1837.
Disturbed at her toilet, Susanna, the sweet Biedermeier girl with fashionable corkscrew curls and delicately tinged rosy cheeks, bashfully hides her bosom, gathering the shift, which has slipped from her shoulder, close to her body. The flawless flesh tint of the exposed skin harmonises charmingly with the white of the shift. A lively accent is created with the dashing red bow in her hair at the back of her neck. The fabric of the simple shift is rendered with loose, broad brush strokes, as is the iridescent fabric of the bluish-green scarf, which is draped in opulent folds and creates an effective colour contrast. It was one of Amerling's favourite compositional schemata to position the bare-backed sitter, turned away from the beholder. The circumscribed, close-up section of the scene emphasises the intimacy of the moment and is another stylistic device frequently employed by the artist. In this instance, Amerling, who frequently combined portrait and genre painting, presents a typified likeness of feminine charm. Effective highlights lend a soft gleam to the young face and betray the influence of Thomas Lawrence's art of portraiture. The head, which is inclined slightly sideways, the dreamy sentimental look and the gently sloping line of back and shoulders suggest sensitivity, gentleness and a need for protection. These characteristics were consistent with the ideal of femininity of the time.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 114