By Marcia Pointon
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Additional info for Portrayal and the search for identity
The years did not dare approach him. His eyes kept growing bluer and harder. His very favour, which rested upon the Trotta dynasty, was a load of cutting ice. 32 It is less likely that Roth is describing a single portrait here than a conflation of several. The reference to the table corresponds to the portrait by Karl von Blaas (1815–1894, illus. 33 It appears – on a chair – in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s portrait of 1865 (illus. 5). In both the Kaiser is dressed as described by Roth but in neither is he ‘silvery’ or ‘senile’.
The district captain visiting his son in the far-off border town where he is stationed, bored to death and drinking heavily, sits at dinner beneath the familiar portrait: Right under and almost parallel to the Kaiser’s white sideburns, twenty inches below, loomed the black, slightly silvered sides of the Trotta whiskers. The youngest ofﬁcers, sitting at the ends of the horseshoe [table], could see the resemblance between His Apostolic Majesty and his servant. From his seat Lieutenant Trotta could likewise compare the Kaiser’s face with his father’s.
The passage in Roth’s novel that I 38 Portrait, Fact and Fiction have quoted offers a concentrated agenda for the study of portraiture: the reader is here introduced to the idea of an illusory shifting relationship between viewer and portrait; to the importance of environment (of where portraits hang) for the ways in which they signify; to the phenomenon – commonplace and yet extraordinary – of the never-ageing likeness; to the difference in affect between the single image and the cipher that serves to mark coins and stamps; and to the symbolic power of the ruler’s portrait to make present the man represented among his subjects, however lowly.