Skip to main content

Coming to visit? Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Lola Montes

c. 1845
Joseph Karl Stieler (attributed)

oil on canvas (frame: 105.0 cm x 85.0 cm, support: 71.0 cm x 52.0 cm)

Lola Montez (1818–1861) was the most famous of the international performers who toured Australia during the boom years of the 1850s. Irish-born, she had spent much of the 1840s touring throughout Europe, attracting praise and scandal in equal measure while also compiling an impressive register of lovers: among them King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who abdicated on her account. After five years in America, she arrived in Australia in 1855 and performed in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide before heading to the goldfields. Her signature ‘Spider Dance’ – in which she enacted having a spider caught in ‘an extremely short gauze skirt’ – caused outrage in some places but was much loved by audiences in Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine. She left Australia in 1856 and took to lecturing on beauty and morality when her stage career ended. She died from syphilis-related symptoms at age 42 and was buried in Brooklyn.

It is thought that this is one of two portraits of Montez commissioned by King Ludwig I from Joseph Stieler, who painted thirty-six works for the ‘Gallery of Beauties’ at Nymphenburg Palace, Munich. Stieler’s other portrait of Montez is still displayed there. This portrait, however, was not to the King’s satisfaction. He is believed to have given it to Montez, who took it to England where it was sold in 1849.


Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Artist and subject

Joseph Karl Stieler (age 64 in 1845)

Lola Montez (age 27 in 1845)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Talking heads

About Face article

21 December 2020

In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

You beauty

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Joanna Gilmour explores the fact and fictions surrounding the legendary life of Irish-born dancer Lola Montez.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency