Peter von Winter (1754-1825)
Peter von Winter (1754-1825)
Oil on canvas; 30 by 25 ins; 76 x 63.5 cm; held in a period style frame
Provenance: Probably commissioned by the English composer William Horsley (1774-1858) and by descent in the Horsley family until sold Christies 6th June 1918, lot 47; private collection, England until sold Christies 30th October 1984; Colnaghi art dealers; private collection, England
Peter von Winter was born at Mannheim in Germany. A child prodigy on the violin, he played in the Mannheim court orchestra and studied with Salieri in Vienna. Moving to Munich in 1778, he became director of the court theatre and started to write stage works, at first ballets and melodramas, and later Operas, more than thirty between 1778 and 1820. He went on to became Vice-Kapellmeister in Munich in 1787 and Kapellmeister in 1798, a title he kept for the rest of his life. His most popular work, Das unterbrochene Opferfest, was produced in 1796 at Vienna where in 1797-1798 he composed Die Pyramiden von Babylon and Das Labyrinth oder Der Kampf mit den Elementen, both written for him by Emanuel Schikaneder, in continuation of the story of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. He returned to Munich in 1798 and five years later visited London, where he produced La grotta di Calipso in 1803, Il ratto di Proserpina in 1804, and Zaira in 1805, with great success. Maometto (1817) is probably his most famous opera. Besides his dramatic works he composed concertos for wind and orchestra and some sacred music, including 26 masses.
While in London von Winter was composer to the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, then the Metropolitan Opera House. It was during this period that the present portrait was commissioned, presumably completed in 1804, as it was published as an engraving the following year.
William Owen was educated at the grammar school in Ludlow and sent to London in 1786 to study under Charles Catton (1728-98), coach painter to George III and founder-member of the Royal Academy. Owen’s copy of a work by Reynolds, made soon after his arrival, attracted the latter’s attention, and thus encouraged he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1791 and exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year. From then on he exhibited every year, apart from 1823 and 1825, and was elected ARA in 1804 and RA in 1806. He painted a number of rural scenes but ultimately specialised in portrait painting in which he fairly excelled. Despite his reputation being somewhat eclipsed by that of Thomas Lawrence, he was sought after by many of the eminent figures of the day, producing portraits of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr William Howley and of the politician and essayist John Wilson Croker as well as the Prime Minister William Pitt the younger and architect John Soane. In 1810 he was appointed portrait painter to the Prince of Wales, later George IV and in 1813 principal portrait painter when he became Prince Regent. Sadly after 1820 Owen’s health deteriorated preventing any further commissions.
Exhibited: Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1894; Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1906; Colnaghi 1986
Engraved: William Say, 1805
Literature: P & D Colnaghi, The British Face: A View of Portraiture 1625-1850, No. 56, illus. p.116