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Major Ferdinand Esterhazy 'Major Esterhazy'

Jean Baptiste Guth (1883-1921)


Signed and dated 98

Watercolour and bodycolour

12 ½ x 7 inches

A G Witherby;
The John Franks Collection

Vanity Fair, 26 May 1898, Men of The Day no 714, 'Major Esterhazy'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 123

'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 59

In 1897, Charles-Marie-Ferdinand Esterhazy (1847-1923), a major in the French army, was revealed as a traitor, having attempted to defect to the German Empire. The revelation ended a scandal that had intrigued observers in Paris and in London since 1894 and had resulted in the false imprisonment of a fellow soldier, Captain Albert Dreyfus. In 1898, shortly after his caricature appeared in Vanity Fair, he fled to England, where he would live under a variety of aliases.

“A Hungarian family provided two Generals for the French army under the second Empire; to one of whom Count Marie Charles Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy became son one-and-forty years ago. Naturally, he entered the Service; and in twenty years or so was promoted Chef de Bataillon of the 74th of the Line. He had already smelled powder in the winter of 1870, and in the Tunisian Expedition; and he had been attached to the War Minister. Six years ago he was mixed up in the memorable duel between Captain Cremieu Foa and Edouard Drumont; he is allied by marriage with one of the oldest families in Lorraine; and he has recently acquired a quite sudden notoriety by implication in l'Affaire Dreyfus: of which, perhaps, more will be heard. He has been heard to say that he does not love Zola.

He is a spare, nervous, well-hated man, with a drooping nose; whose face and swarthy complexion betray his race.”

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