Szolnoky Laszlo’s only other surviving work, the “Rusted Duke,” appears to be based on a 1820 portrait of the Duke of Glückstadt which was widely reproduced and distributed. Since it was made by apprentices of the de Ijesser school in Amsterdam as an advertising tool, and over 500 are known to exist today, it’s likely that Szolnoky used one of these copies as a model. Unlike the de Ijesser dukes, however, Szolnoky’s Duke is smiling and is depicted in front of a landscape that can best be described as fantastical–it appears normal, but upon closer inspection many minor impossibilities and inaccuracies appear. It seems that Szolnoky intended the piece as a parody, though one must wonder how an artist infamous for using the blood of kidnap victims as his paint could have any notion of parody at all.

Like the “Sepia Woman,” Szolnoky painted the “Rusted Duke” for a foreign nobleman–in this case, the Grand Duke Alexei Pavolvich of Russia, second cousin to Czar Nicholas I. The Grand Duke commissioned the painting during his time as an attache to the ambassador, it seems, and may even have provided the de Ijesser it is based on. When the emperor requested its return from St. Petersburg, the Grand Duke instead gifted it to Czar Nicholas II as a gesture of defiance. He did not live out the year, being stricken by scarlet fever during a tour of Vladivostok. Nicholas II did not care for the painting and gave it to one of his ministers not long before his own assassination.

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