Mena Hereditary Princess of Fürstenberg 1927

3/4 quarter portrait in a sitting position, looking to the left into the distance. Chair covered by a blue throw, on it the right arm of the portrayed is resting. In her left arm she holds a white-haired lapdog. Dressed in a sleeveless white silk dress, around the shoulders a transparent chiffon. Around the neck a necklace of unusually large, uniform pearls, on each of the ring fingers a ring with a large pearl. Background only shown by an almost geometric pattern formed by brush strokes.

JQAW# P_1927_070
Oil on canvas 123 x 95 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams 1927
Schlossmuseum Weitra, Austria.

Franziska Ida Mena Hereditary Princess (from 1941 Princess) zu Fürstenberg, née Countess Nostitz-Rieneck, 28.3.1902 Prague to 20.5.1961 Munich.
On 26.4.1921 marriage with Hereditary Prince (from 1941 Prince) Karl Egon V. zu Fürstenberg (1891-1973, see his catalog entry). (Wedding gift was an unusual Cartier tiara combining diamonds with blackened steel). The Fürstenbergs are one of the oldest German-Austrian noble families (and one of the 16 so-called "Apostle families", i.e. families that were already resident in Austria at the time of the Babenbergs (i.e. pre-1246). The House of Fürstenberg-Weitra is one of the five that still exist in Austria today). The marriage of Mena and Karl Egon remained childless, which is why Karl Egon also renounced his father's succession to the Swabian family estates (Donaueschingen Castle) in favor of his brother's children. Mena, for her part, was a popular godmother and liked to surround herself with children of all backgrounds. In contrast to the sophisticated Adams portrait, her lifestyle was rather unspectacular and limited to socially "obligatory appointments", such as attending weddings of relatives or the Vienna Derby, where own race horses participated (as documented by the rather sparse press reports about her). The couple lived mainly at Weitra Castle and in Vienna. After the devastation of the castle at the end of the war (the bullet hole in Adam's portrait in Mena's head over her right eye still bears witness to this), they lived in the Meierhof of the castle. (In the meantime, the castle has been renovated through the efforts of the Fürstenberg family and the public authorities and is open to the public again. It houses a brewery museum - brewing beer is a long Fürstenberg tradition - and a castle museum, where the two Adams portraits can be viewed). Stricken by serious illness, Mena died early at age 59 in Munich, where she was staying for medical treatment. She is buried in the Fürstenberg family crypt in Altweitra, which is located next to the remarkable Romanesque fortified church.

The portrait of Mena Erbprinzessin zu Fürstenberg is rightly considered one of Adams' major works and particularly representative of his mature portrait style. The somewhat frightened facial expression of the sitter is probably a (counter-)reaction to the glamorous staging Adams put in place, but it is precisely this dialectic that gives the painting its iconic character. Often reproduced in the press (for example as the cover of the Vienna Salonblatt of April 29, 1928), the Mena Fürstenberg portrait also graced the catalog and exhibition poster of the 1986 Adams exhibition at the Akademie Schillerplatz in Vienna. The often described beauty of the portrayed is emphasized by the refined simplicity of the dress, but her social status is also emphasized by the pearls, whose uniformity and size make them "one of the most precious in the world" (Leipziger Ill. Zeitung, and which are also featured in the Sotheby's auction catalog of the 2015 Cartier Steel Brilliant Tiara). The impressionistic dissolution of the contours, the reduced color spectrum, as well as the two-dimensional, abstract background were so masterfully combined by Adams in this portrait that there are only a few comparable counterparts (see cross-references), of which the portrait of Elisabeth von Morawitz (remarried Countess of Nostitz-Rieneck) from 1924 also establishes a biographical connection.


1927 Künstlerhaus Vienna #148 (no entry in the entry book).

1986 Academy Schillerplatz Vienna, Viennese Society in Portrait, Catalog #60.


Schaffer/Eisenburger 1986, exhibition catalogue #60 (w. color ill.)

APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 214, cat.#181, ill.#122.


Her family descendants.
Weitra Castle Museum, Austria.