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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The marquise de Las Marismas - two portraits by Winterhalter

Painted by Winterhalter in 1857.

Claire-Émilie, marquise de Las Marismas, vicomtesse Aguado, née MacDonell. (October 24, 1817, Algiers - April 23, 1905, Paris).

When I first started composing this post, I could find nothing on this lovely woman other than her name and the dates of her birth and death.  And then, depending on where I read it, even the date of her death and the spelling of her maiden name varied.  As I struggled on, I began getting bits and pieces, mostly from French and Spanish sources, and much of it contradictory; I was made to resort to photographs of tomb inscriptions.  What started as a desire to have a little something with which to footnote two lovely paintings became a minor, but far too time-consuming, detective case.

Apparently, the future marquise de Las Marismas was born October 24, 1817 at Algiers, the eldest daughter of Hugh MacDonell, who was British consul-general there, and his second wife, daughter of Admiral Ulrich, the Danish consul-general. She married, ca. 1842, Alexandre (Manuel-Alexandre?  Jean-Manuel?  Alexandre-Jean-Manuel?) (August 6, 1813 - August 16, 1861, Paris), the eldest son of the wealthy Franco-Spanish Aguado family.  The couple had four children, the first son dying in childhood.  At some point her husband "lost his reason", as they used to say, and she tended to him until his early death.  Two years later, in 1863, by "special dispensation", she married his younger brother Onésipe-Gonsalve-Jean-Alexandre-Olympe, vicomte Aguado (August 9, 1830, Seine et Oise - May 19, 1893, Paris).  She died April 23, 1885 - or 1905 - or 1908, depending on who you believe; the inscription on her tomb would seem to say 1885 - having outlived a husband, daughter, and two sons.  (Or two husbands, a daughter, and all her sons, if either of the later dates is correct.)

(Update: Thanks to the excellent research done at the Père Lachaise cemetery by commenter "Veuillet Rebecca" - see below - we are now certain that the marquise actually died in 1905 at the age of eighty-seven. A good age, but how sad that she had to endure the deaths of all of her children first....)

What is certain is that she was a dame du palais to the Empress Eugénie - it seems the Aguado family were old friends of the empress' family, and likewise a supporter of the first Napoleon - and she was included in Winterhalter's famous 1855 portrait of the empress surrounded by her ladies.

While I have known of that vast canvas since childhood, the two oval portraits of the marquise, also by Winterhalter, are fairly recent acquaintances of mine.  She seems, especially in the one where she is in white, the quintessence of the soft, pale mid-nineteenth-century beauty, with her "English curls" and her dreamy eyes.

This portrait is exhibited at the chateau de Compiègne in the same
room as the group portrait of the Empress and her ladies.

Painted by Winterhalter in 1852 - I love the little loose strand of hair on the right.

 The marquise is shown, seated, on the right of the group portrait of 1855.


In 1860, the marquise's daughter, Carmen-Ida-Marie Aguado y MacDonell, born in 1847, was also painted by Winterhalter.  In 1866 she married Adalbert de Talleyrand-Perigord (1837-1915), and became duchesse de Montmorency.  She died in 1880 at the age of 33.


  1. Dear Stephen,
    I am fascinated by pretty women and Emilie de Las Marismas is one of my favorites.
    I was intrigued by the accurate date of her death.
    I am in Paris for a few weeks, so I decided to go to the cemetery of Père Lachaise to find out.
    I had to go twice. Each time, it was pouring. It's rather becoming for a stroll in this magnificent cemetery. I love cemeteries. Those are soothing places for me. The reason I had to go twice is I couldn't get my answer the first time as the engraving on the grave is erased/damaged.
    I took a few pictures, I could send them to you via email. Here's what you can still read :
    Claire Emilie
    Mac Donell
    Marquise de Las Marismas
    Vicomtesse Aguado
    Née à Alger le 24 octobre 1817
    Morte à Paris le 23 avril 1xx5
    The "conservation" was closed on Saturday, that's why I went back today so I could ask them.
    This exquisite Marquise died on April 23rd of 1905, and was burried on the 26th.
    Apparently the last bill/paperwork concerning the grave dates 1951. It's still in beautiful state.
    Which means it's the city of Paris that will take care of it.

    1. Thank you so much for this! I had seen images of the damaged inscription on her grave; they helped me with what I was able to gather for this post. But I'm very grateful for the further research you've been able to do as to the actual date of her death. I'm glad to know she lived a nice long life. Though it - is - sad that she outlived so many of her closest family, including all of her children....

      I'll put a little edit in the text to reflect this new information you've provided. : )

  2. Thank you. I am glad I could be helpful. That's very sad she had to outlive all of her family. Her friend, the ex Empress Eugénie outlived her. And well, at least, she was wealthy and probably had all the comfort she needed till the very end.
    I could spend days at the Père Lachaise cemetery. I could see the mausoleums of the de Morny and Waleski families. Delphine de Cambaceres, who died in 1868, is said to be the illegitimate daughter of the Duke de Morny. Her grave is beautiful.
    Another grave that is famous and truly captivating is Victor Noir's. He was killed by a Bonaparte in 1870...
    The best as always,

  3. Hi Stephilius

    I'm Francisco Conte Mac Donell, i'm a descendent of the sister of Emilie MacDonell, Ida Alexandrine MacDonell.
    i have been working on my family tree for a long time (several years actually) and with all my research i can concluded that Emilie MacDonell was wealthy but had a very rought life.
    She was recently borned when the Algeris dey attack the British consulate and others consulate. His Father, Hugh MacDonell, British Consul in Algeris was captured and tortured with a hungry lion in the same iron cage. Her mother, Ida Louise Ulrich, with Emilie in her arms, in trying to save her, jumped into the water (sea) followed but a British Blue Jacket as a Bodyguard, after that, she was recued by the British Navy.
    Emilie MacDonell married Alexandre Jean Aguado, II Marqués de las Marismas del Guadalquivir, but his father-in-law, doesn't aprove this marriage so he disinherited Alexandre Jean by for marring a woman who was not part of the Nobility; but in secondary testament, reincorporate Alexandre Jean, in equal parts of his inheritance.
    After a few years of marriage, Alexandre Jean Aguado, her husband, Began to develop schizophrenia and start waisting money on Sluts and been unfaithful to Emilie.
    After the death of Alexandre, few years later, she married his brother-in-law, Onesipe Gonsalve Aguado, they got divorcen in 1891 and Emilie died alone in a family chateau in France.

    1. Hello, Francisco!

      How wonderful to hear from an actual relative of the beautiful marquise! Thank you for saying hello and for verifying so much information. I didn't know that her marriage was controversial within her husband's family. Yes, an interesting but very sad life....

      Thank you, again, for your comment, Francisco! : )

  4. Hello Mr. O'Donnell,

    Thanks for your blog and curation of these images and histories. I was a little surprised at the end of my calculations to find out that the marquise's daughter, Carmen-Ida-Marie Aguado y MacDonell, so beautifully portrayed in her portrait, would only have been thirteen at the time of its execution! Surely she looks older than that...right?

    1. I think it could go either way; I can imagine her being that age, but she could look older as well. The pose isn't very childlike; it's rather sophisticated for someone so young. So that might contribute to her seeming older than thirteen.

    2. Mr. Taylor

      Yes she was 13 Years old
      Carmen Ida Aguado MacDonell (28/06/1847-26/11/1880)

  5. "we are now certain that the marquise actually died in 1905 at the age of eighty-seven. A good age, but how sad to have gone before all of her children..."

    She died *after* her children, not before them.

    1. Of course - yes! I can't think why I wrote it that way... the sadness of outliving all her children was certainly the point I was trying to make. I'll fix it right now. Thank you!