To whom Franz Xaver Winterhalter owed the greatest debt is tentative, but his debt to Daniel Seligmann, Baron Eichtal is certain. A leading industrialist in the Grand Duchy of Baden and a prominent figure in Karlsruhe, the rich and influential Baron sponsored the young artist’s career more than any other. By introducing him to vital contacts during the early years, it was he who had partly paved the way for Winterhalter'’s career as the eminent Royal portraitist.
The sitter in the present painting is Count Paul Andreievich Shouvaloff (1830-1908), second son of Andrei Petrovich, and younger brother of Peter, who was ambassador to London between 1874 and 1879. Like many of the artist'’s sitters, he led a rewarding lfe, fulfilling his career within the higher échelons of political and social circles. As a young Page in 1848, Paul Andreievich was a personal attendant to the Emperor and he became a lieutenant in 1852, taking part in the Sebastopol campaign of 1854-5. Later he became A.D.C to the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich (the Elder), and in 1859, to Emperor Alexander II. He took part in the Balkans war of 1877-8, and was appointed Ambassador to Berlin from 1885-94. He culminated his successful career as Governor General of Warsaw from 1894 to 1898, having been married first to Olga Alexandrovna Beloselsky-Belozersky and then later to Maria Alexandrovna Komarova.
Very little is known about how Winterhalter worked, except that he painted rapidly and fluently requiring very few sittings and drawing directly on to the canvas. A number of portraits were commissioned by members of the extensive Shouvaloff family, most of which are poorly documented and residing in unverified locations. The present portrait was executed with the attention to detail and painterly skill, typical for this stage in his profession, and for which he was held in such high esteem. By 1860, the year in which this work was executed, Winterhalter had reached the apex of his career. His style was fully mature, his clients faithful and financially rewarding, and his social circle complete. Finalising his last subject painting’, of Susannah and the Elders (location unknown) inspired by Rubens and Titian in 1860, and with his period with the French Court drawing to a close the following year, the artist had finally elected to dedicate his time solely to portraiture from that year on.