L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Card 2013

It's time for this year's Christmas card "reveal".  G and I didn't share responsibility for the image this go 'round; with a show coming up, I didn't feel I had time for the necessary back and forth negotiating it normally takes to put our card together.  So I did all the Photoshopping and she did all the printing and assembly.

My starting point was the paired state portraits of the Empress Eugénie and Napoléon III by Winterhalter - nice Christmas-y color scheme if nothing else.

There are many, many versions of these two portraits; they're all copies.  The originals are
presumed to have been destroyed when the Tuileries Palace was burnt in 1871.
Rather than the usual oil painting, I believe this image is of one of the tapestry copies of the empress'
portrait; the general tone is brighter in color, and some of the details are more generalized.

Already, the two were nicely oriented toward each other, and the lighting came from the same direction.  It was fun to blend the join between the two backgrounds - draperies, trees and palace - and make it look like it was all one big painting.  I had to do away with the crowns - Nicholas needed to be the master here, not either of us - and then I needed to establish a centrally-located draped table and cushion.  I copied and warped elements from the existing tables and took much of the cushion itself from another Winterhalter painting, the Garter portrait of Queen Victoria.  (Which I recently posted about here.)

There was much fussing: a lot of color adjustment (the red in the emperor's portrait was much less so than in the empress'), subtracting details and then camouflaging the subtraction, copying and adjusting details, then moving them to a different location.  When all that was done, it had gone from this:

To this:

Then to add our faces.  You may not be surprised that G's face went on the boy body, and mine went on the girl's; that's just how we do things around here.

We were pretty easy to do, but Nicholas was a little harder.  Because of the lighting, the table and cushion where he was sitting was quite shadowed, so I had to "shadow" his lower half, as well, but making it seem that light might reach the upper part.  Also, in the original photograph, his right ear had light shining through it and glowed bright red; it just looked wrong.  Blending elements from his left ear and adjusting the color and lighting, I "constructed" a better right ear.

Then he needed some princely ornament.  Because of his tiny head and his big ears, I couldn't get any sort of proper crown on him.  At first, I thought I might just go with a jeweled collar: this being a pearl and diamond bracelet - French, of the same period as the portraits, actually - that I Photoshopped in:

I still like this version much better.  (I also had to lose some of the background details;
they were visually distracting once Nicholas was added to the image.)

But I agreed with G that, scaled down to the actual card size, this would just look like he was wearing a regular collar.  So I eventually settled on adding an emerald brooch (which had belonged to Catherine the Great) to his collar, and topping his little head with the Duchesse d'Angoulême's - much warped - emerald and diamond tiara, once part of the French crown jewels.  I did a lot of work on these two last items, but I still don't think they hold up as well in close-up as other parts of the finished image.  From a distance, though, they add the desired "princely ornament" and a bit more Christmas-cognisant green.

If Nicholas is distressed at having to wear "girl jewelry", he's been too diplomatic to mention it.


  1. You are remarkable.

    [those paintings look weird to me now without our faces on them...]