oil on canvas
in original 19th century frame
23.5 × 18.5 cm
There are few Western rulers who attain the sobriquet “the Great” and Catherine, who was born in Pomerania as Princess Sophie of Anhalt Zerbst, attained her greatness by marrying her second cousin Peter, the heir to the Russian throne and grandson of Peter the Great, and then politicking her way to attaining supreme power.
Ruling as one fo the “enlightened despots” of the late 18th century, she mentally traversed great distances, corresponding with Diderot, Voltaire and other great minds of Europe as well as travelling extensively through her expanding empire, usually in pursuit of one of her lovers.
In this small copy of Mikhail Shibanov’s famous portrait she wears a red velvet travelling coat and fur hat, and not forgetting her position her orders are pinned to her breast, her wise face as described by painter Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun: “her genius seemed to rest on her forehead, which was both high and wide. Her eyes were soft and sensitive, her nose quite Greek, her colour high and her features expressive.”
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