Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy

Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy

Self-portrait of Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy
Born Elisabeth von Parlaghy
(1863-04-15)15 April 1863
Died 28 August 1923(1923-08-28) (aged 60)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality Hungarian
Known for Portrait painter

Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy (15 April 1863 - 28 August 1923) was a Hungarian-born portrait painter who worked in Germany and the United States. She is known to have painted about 120 portraits of prominent Americans and Europeans between 1884 and 1923.

Early life

Elisabeth von Parlaghy received her education as an artist in Budapest and later by Franz Quaglio and Wilhelm Dürr the Younger in Munich, where she adopted the style of Franz von Lenbach. A portrait of her mother gained her public notice in Berlin in 1890.

That year, controversy erupted over a portrait either of von Moltke or of the The German Emperor William II; sources vary. It was rejected on its initial submission by the jury of the International Exposition at Berlin, but restored at the personal request, or order, of the Emperor.[1][2]

Her exhibition of portraits in the Salon de Paris from 1892 to 1894 brought her further public notice.

In 1896 she first visited New York City. Returning to Europe in 1899, she married the Russian Prince Lwoff at Prague; they were quickly divorced, though she continued to style herself the "Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy" using her artist name with the authorization of the Prince Lwoff. The Prince also continued to provide her with a permanent annual allowance. She again visited New York in 1899, where her portrait of Admiral George Dewey became the basis of further American success. Returning to Europe in 1900, she later got a unique daughter, Wilhelmina Nors, whose father, Peter Nors, a Danish officer or minister, was the Princess' companion at that time (at least 1905). Her daughter, Wilhelmina Nors (usually Vilma Nors), born in August 1906 in UK, was further raised by a nanny in London. Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy also lived in Berlin and Nice, roughly between 1900 and 1908, before her permanent return to New York city in 1908.


In Manhattan she lived stylishly in a fourteen-room suite on the third floor of the new Plaza Hotel, which included a private chapel; her retinue there included a personal surgeon and a chamberlain, as well as a pet lion named "Goldfleck".[3] When "Goldfleck" died she buried him at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.[4]

The Princess had seen the lion cub at Ringling Brothers circus and asked to buy him, but the circus owners refused. However, they did agree to sell him to American Civil War hero Daniel E. Sickles - whose portrait the Princess had recently painted. He gave the cub immediately to the grateful Princess as a gift.[5]

She became known as a 5th Avenue portraitist, partly as a result of a well-publicized 1911 visit to her cousin Abbott Lawrence Lowell, then President of Harvard, during which she travelled to Boston by private railway car and insisted on dining off her own solid-gold dinnerware.[6]

After Goldfleck's death in 1912, the Princess summered in the Catskills.

Blue Portrait of Nikola Tesla, 1916.

In 1913 she celebrated her fiftieth birthday with an exhibition of a series of her German portraits in the Plaza. In 1916 she moved to Park Avenue, commencing her residence with the presentation of a portrait of John Burroughs; that same year she presented her so-called "blue portrait" of the inventor Nikola Tesla in her studio at 109 East 39th Street.[7] Nikola Tesla only once in his lifetime sat for a portrait, and he did this only for the painter Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy. She celebrated her sixtieth birthday in 1923 with an exhibition of what she called her Manhattan Hall of Fame in the Carlton on Madison Avenue.

Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy died in 1923; the poet Edwin Markham gave her funeral oration. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

List of important portraits

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy.

Most of these portraits were part of the "Manhattan Hall of Fame" exhibition, 1923.



  1. Clara Erskine. "Women in the Fine Arts, from the Seventh Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century A.D.".
  2. Emil Fuchs, With Pencil, Brush And Chisel - The Life Of An Artist. James Press, 2007
  3. Ward Morehouse, Inside the Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel. Applause Books, 2001
  4. Hartsdale Pet Cemetery of New York
  5. "Goldfleck the lion cub - Lost and Fond".
  7. "Nikola Tesla's Famous "Blue Portrait" rediscovered at NordseeMuseum, Husum, Northern Germany".
  9. Klaus Lengsfeld: Sammlung Ludwig Nissen (Husum 1855 - 1924 New York); Dokumentation der Kunstsammlung Ludwig Nissens anlässlich der Ausstellung zu seinem 125. Geburtstag im Nissenhaus zu Husum, 1980, 169 S. (= Schriften des Nordfriesischen Museums Ludwig-Nissen-Haus, Nr. 16)
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