Philip de László executed this painting in 1894 at the Winter Palace in Euxinograd, in Bulgaria, where he had been invited by Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie-Louise of Bulgaria to paint their portraits. These were his first royal commissions, and meant a lot to him. Whilst completing them, the artist was asked to paint the present portrait of the heir apparent, Prince Boris, as a present from Prince Ferdinand to his mother, Princess Clementine. De László's sitter was then ten months old. Prince Ferdinand is known to have had a great love for flowers, and this is reflected in his son holding such a splendid garland in his portrait. In his memoirs, the artist explained that it was Prince Ferdinand's 'own idea that [he] should paint a wreath of roses round the portrait, as a symbol of life and beauty' (Rutter, op. cit., p. 140).
Prince Boris, Duke of Saxony, was born on 30 January 1894, the first-born son of Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria, later King Ferdinand, and his wife, Princess Marie-Louise de Bourbon-Parma. Following his father's forced abdication on 3 October 1918, he came to the throne as King Boris III. In October 1930, he married Princess Giovanna (Ioanna) of Savoy (1907-2000), the third daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy. The couple had two children, Princess Marie Louise and Prince Simeon, later King Simeon II, born at Sofia in 1937. At the outbreak of the Second World War, King Boris endeavoured to maintain his country's neutrality, but to prevent an imminent invasion he was eventually forced into an alliance with Nazi Germany in the spring of 1941. He refused, nevertheless, to send Bulgarian troops into action to aid Germany on the Eastern Front and resisted Hitler's personal demand that all Bulgarian Jews be deported to the death camps. King Boris died suddenly on 28 August 1943. In 1946 the Queen and her children were ordered to leave Bulgaria, departing for Egypt and later settling in Spain.
We are grateful to Dr. Caroline Corbeau for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.
The Hon. Mrs de László and Christopher Wentworth-Stanley are compiling the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work. Dr. Caroline Corbeau is the British and French editor. Please see www.delaszloarchivetrust.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.