Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chocolate and Romance from the 17th Century

Blog hop icon
This Giveaway has now ended and the winner is Susan Heim! Congratulations to Susan, and thank you to everyone who commented, or followed me on Facebook or the blog.

The Chocolate Girl
by Jean Etienne Liotard

I first wrote about this painting back in December last year in a post about maidservants, but I thought it was a great story for a Valentine's week post and worth highlighting again. I don't know if there is a novel based on this Cinderella-like tale, but it might make a good one. (No plans for it myself!)

The story behind the commissioning of this painting is a great romantic myth. The girl in the portrait, Anna Baltauf, worked as a maidservant in one of the Viennese chocolate shops which had become hugely popular during the 17th and18th centuries. She had little chance of good marriage as her father was too poor to give her a good dowry, however in the summer of 1745, a young Austrian nobleman - Prince Dietrichstein - came into the shop. He fell in love with the Chocolate Girl and asked her to marry him, despite objections from his family As a wedding present to his 'chocolate girl' he commissioned this portrait of his wife wearing the maid’s costume she was wearing when he first set eyes on her. Is this true? I guess we'll never really know.

Ella Appleby from my book The Gilded Lily would have loved this story. It was what she dreamed about for herself, that a prince might come and rescue her from her humdrum life. Sadie, her sister, would have gently told her to stop dreaming and to deliver the tray to the customer before the chocolate went cold.
More information about the story can be found here

File:La prima colazione.jpgThe painting itself, formerly in Dresden, survived World War II and Allied bombs by being kept in a damp cellar in Konigstein Fortress  and brought back to Dresden after the Germans retreated from advancing Russian troops. Fortunately it seems none the worse, and is a wonderful portrait of costume and detail from the mid 18th century.

The same girl can be seen in one of Liotard's other works, 'The Breakfast.' 

I am offering two copies of THE GILDED LILY - one for the Hearts through History Blog Hop, and one for the League of British Artists Valentine Giveaway. (Click to take you there)
Both are International - wherever Book Depository delivers.

Please comment below to enter the Hearts Through History Giveaway and leave an email address. 
Two extra entries for following my blog, one extra entry if you 'like' my facebook page

Hop Participants - Hearts Through History 

Good luck everyone!


  1. A very romantic story, Deborah. How lovely.
    Have shared this for you.

    Please do not enter me for the giveaway, as you know I have a copy to read. Thanks


  2. How lovely! I have a counted cross stitch of the Chocolate Girl in my dining room-I love that picture. Your book sounds wonderful-please count me in the giveaway!

  3. I hadn't heard this story or seen this portrait before. Thanks for sharing and for participating in the giveaway.

    GFC follower: Sophia Rose
    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

  4. I want this story to be true! How awesome it is. Thanks for finding a wonderful hidden gem.


  5. This sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Susan Heim
    smhparent [at] hotmail [dot] com

  6. I follow on GFC as ParentingAuthor. (entry 1)

  7. I follow on GFC as ParentingAuthor. (entry 2)

  8. I follow on Facebook. (Susan M. Heim)

  9. Patkf2007 {at} hotmail {dot} com

    These paintings I am wanting to look upo the artist now

  10. Thanks for a chance to win this book!

  11. I'm a follower! 1

  12. I'm a follower! 2

  13. I follow on FB, too!

  14. I have this portrait on my computer but I never knew the story behind it - myth or not. Thank you Deb that was lovely - and I would love to read The Gilded Lily

  15. What a lovely story to go with a lovely painting! I'd like to think it's true, but I'm a romantic like that.

    I follow your blog by email.

    dancingcelt at gmail dot com

  16. Beautiful painting and lovely story.

  17. A beautiful portrait... but if the same woman was used in an unrelated painting later on isn't it more likely that she was just a model for the artist? Or was it commissioned by the royal family at a later date? Interesting.

    I followed you too. :)
    -Lisa (slapshinyhappy at yahoo dot com)

  18. Hi Everyone - yes Lisa I agree with you, the story is probably over-romanticized, but I love a bit of slush on Valentine's Day!If you click on the link in the post you will see that the image was used by chocolate manufacturers who enjoyed to re-tell the story as a way of raising interest in their product. In fact it was one of the earliest images used to advertise chocolate.Liotard apparently used several different models taken from the serving maids in the royal household.

  19. Deborah-

    I adore that you reference a painting and the story behind it, which sends my heart palpating! (I am a writer/painter.) I have “liked” your Facebook page and happily joined your blog.

    I would love to win your novel! Fingers crossed.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!


    Stephanie Renee dos Santos
    Email: stephaniereneedossantos at

    P.S. I love your arty blog!