The Chocolate Girl; or, The maid who became a princess

 The Chocolate Girl (known also as La Belle Chocolatière, or Das Schokoladenmädchen) is one of the most famous works by the Swiss artist, Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789), and depicts a pretty maid serving a tray of hot chocolate.

An 1840s engraving of Liotard's Chocolate Girl by A. H. Payne

The Chocolate Girl: an engraving by A. H. Payne, c. 1840

The charming story behind the commission of the painting reads like a romantic fairy-tale. It is thought that the girl in the picture, Anna Baltauf, lived in Vienna and worked as a server in one of the chocolate shops which had become hugely popular throughout Europe during the 18th century.  As the daughter of an impoverished Viennese knight, she had little chance of good marriage, however in the summer of 1745, a young Austrian nobleman named Prince Dietrichstein visited the shop. He fell in love with Anna and asked her to marry him, despite his family’s objections, and so the chocolate girl became a princess. As a wedding present to his bride, the prince commissioned the portrait from Liotard, an artist of the Viennese court. Anna is shown in the maid’s costume she was wearing when her future husband first saw her.

The Chocolate Girl by Jean-Etienne Liotard

Das Schokoladenmädchen: the original portrait by Jean-Etienne Liotard

It is impossible to say just how much truth there is to this tale, however it is certain that in 1881 Henry L. Pierce, then president of the Walter Baker chocolate company, visited the painting in the Dresden Art Gallery and was captivated by it and by Anna’s story.  He immediately registered La Belle Chocolatière as one of the first US trademarks and the image has graced the company’s boxes and packaging ever since. The original portrait of Princess Dietrichstein, the Chocolate Girl, still hangs in the Dresden gallery, where it remains one of the museum’s most popular attractions. – Ken Gibb

Images:
The chocolate girl. John Johnson Shelfmark: Cocoa, Chocolate and Confectionery 5 (54)
(ProQuest durable URL)

Copyright  © 2009 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Reproduced with the permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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5 Responses to The Chocolate Girl; or, The maid who became a princess

  1. Anthony M. Sammarco says:

    The new book “The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History” by Anthony M. Sammarco (The History Press, 2009) has just been published.

    • Thomas Mickey says:

      Mr. Sammarco, heard your great talk on Baker Square Chocolate at the Quincy Library a few weeks. I am writing a book on 19th century gardening. When did Dorchester first get electric streetcars? what year? do you know?
      thanks
      tom mickey

      • Anthony Sammarco says:

        Thanks for your comments! I am presenting a lecture on “Howard Johnson: 28 Flavors” on Wednesday, May 5th at the Quincy Library, 7:30 PM.

        Electric streetcars started in the late 1880’s in Dorchester. By 1889 there were electric streetcars rather than horse drawn streetcars, and it revolutionized transportation.

  2. dile says:

    impressive collection and nice story

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