I always admired this painting, not knowing who the subject was [ the last surviving French person to have worn a crown].
After the accession of Napoleon III, Winterhalter's popularity grew and he became the chief portraitist of the imperial family and court of France. The beautiful French Empress Eugénie became a favorite sitter and she treated him generously. In 1855 Winterhalter painted his masterpiece: The Empress Eugénie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting. He set the French Empress in a pastoral setting gathering flowers in a harmonious circle with her ladies in waiting. The painting was acclaimed, and exhibited in the universal exposition in 1855. It remains Winterhalter's most famous work.
(1826 – 1920)
She was known for her style, just like her predecessor Marie Antoinette:
When the empress wore the new cage crinolines in 1855, European fashion followed suit, and when she abandoned vast skirts at the end of the 1860s, at the encouragement of her legendary couturier, Charles Worth, the silhouette of women's dress followed her lead again. Eugénie's aristocratic elegance, splendour of dress and legendary jewels are well documented in innumerable paintings, especially by her favourite portraitist, Winterhalter. Her interest in the life of Marie Antoinette of Austria sparked a fashion for furniture and interior design in the neoclassical style popular during the reign of Louis XVI of France.
After her husband was overthrown in 1870, following the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon and Eugénie lived in exile in the United Kingdom. She died in 1920.
and the short time needed to sit still as opposed to posing for a painted portrait.
See more period paintings at Gallery of Selective Artwork
info taken from Wikipedia article
biography - Eugenie, the Empress and her Empire by Desmond Seward