Gilded wood trumeau mirror and painting. The top half comprises a painting depicting the 14 April 1864 departure of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Habsburg-Lorraine—a younger brother of the Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I—and Princess Charlotte (daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium) to Mexico where they were to become the new Emperors, at the petition of that country’s elites. The painter is Anton Cuberlé, a landscape and maritime painter active in 19th-century Vienna. At the time, Mexico was occupied by the French army of Emperor Napoleon III, who sponsored the endeavor. Maximilian had accepted the Mexican throne and sworn allegiance to his new realm before a delegation of Mexican nobles led by diplomat José María Gutiérrez de Estrada the year before. Estrada, having shown Maximilian the results of a plebiscite granting him the Mexican crown, gifted Maximilian a golden scepter —a symbol of sovereignty— engraved with the Imperial eagle. Thus, the monarchy was re-established in Mexico.
The painting shows the royal couple being rowed in a sumptuous royal barge—capped with a red velvet baldachin—towards the flag-festooned frigate Novara, part of the Austrian Hapsburg flotilla composed of four three-masted galleons and a steamer, including the frigate Themis, the steamship Fantasie, and a dozen smaller Navy vessels. One of the ships is firing a cannon in salute, while along the banks hundreds of well-wishers cheer the future monarch, fluttering their white handkerchiefs. In the background stands Maximilian’s beloved Miramare Castle, set on a peninsula near Trieste, which he constructed after serving as Viceroy of the Austrian Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. Designed by Austrian architect Carl Junker and completed in 1860, it was the home of the couple until they accepted the throne of Mexico. A similar, though more elaborate painting of the same scene by Cesare Dell'Acqua is exhibited at Miramare Castle (and displayed in the gallery above).
A trumeau is a mirror that contains a painted or carved panel above and a mirrored panel below, comprising the same frame. Mostly rectangular, the lower section usually contained the mirror to facilitate the diffusion of candlelight. They were often placed on fireplace mantels.
Medium & Techniques
Oil on canvas, gilt wood frame, mirrors
Height 40 in. (101.6 cm) x Width 52 in. (132.08 cm) x Depth 2 in. (5.08 cm)
Acquired from William MacKinnon of Three Centuries Antiques (Vancouver, Canada)
Purchased by William MacKinnon at auction (Germany)