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Lafayette L2827f
Neg. Date: 11-10-1901

copyright V&A

Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873-1943)

This highly idealised and staged portrait, one of many taken during her photographic session at the Lafayette studio, captures the de László style of portrait painting – in both its pose and dreamy wistfulness.

Daisy, considered one of the most beautiful woman in Europe, sat for numerous artists to have her portrait taken. She was sketched in 1912 by the American John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), an outstanding society portraitist.

Another painter active in London, Ellis William Roberts (1860–1930), depicted her in a chiffon-swathed pose for Mrs F. Harcourt Williamson’s famous work on the reigning beauties of the time, her 1902 Book of Beauty: Era King Edward VII. He also painted her with her son Hansel in a portrait which still hangs in the Pless Palace, as does the 1917 painting by Boleslaw Szankowski (1873–1953) showing Daisy sitting, as in this photograph, on a throne and wearing a tiara.

The Italian artist A. Galli stayed in Pless in 1914 and painted Daisy and other members of family. The same year she was portrayed at Mandelieu near La Napoule in France by M. Edgerley.

Back in 1900, Princess (later Queen) Marie of Romania and her friend Daisy had gone together to the atelier of Philip de László (1869–1937), who during the 1890s became a successful professional portraitist in his native Hungary as well as in Austria and Germany. From 1907 he lived in London and went on to paint almost the entire British royal family as well as great personalities of the age including Countess Anna Hochberg in 1910 and Daisy’s father Colonel William Cornwallis-West in 1914. He also painted portraits of Marie of Romania and Daisy, and noted in his diary: “I remember the beautiful Daisy Pless visiting me with the still more beautiful and attractive Crown Princess Marie of Rumania, who was the admiration of society”.

An oil painting of Daisy in the Artist’s Studio by a famous French portraitist, Paul-César Helleu (1889–1927) appeared recently at Christie’s auction in London and made £380,000.

This photograph was reproduced in Madame magazine on 17 January 1907. A front view version from the same sitting was published c. 1903 in M(onsieur) Lafayette’s article entitled “Concerning Many Methods of Artistic Photography”.