Russian School, 19th century

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Russian School, 19th century portrait of emperor Alexander I oil on canvas 52.5 by 65cm., 20N by 25Nin. Provenance: Given by Tsar Alexander I to Prince Andrei Kirillovich Razumovsky (1752-1836) Thence by descent Throughout the 18th and early 19th century, the relationship between the Razumovsky family and the Imperial Romanovs was characterised on one side by close friendship, on the other by a continual rising and falling from favour dictated by absolute ruler to his courtier, subject and diplomat. The offered painting, a formal portrait of Tsar Alexander I can be seen as the expression of the positive current in tide of changing relations. For in 1814 it was personally given by the Tsar to his loyal diplomat, Prince Andrei Kirillovich Razumovsky (1752-1836) at a time when the Prince was at the pinnacle of his career. Prince Razumovsky was a cousin of Tsar Paul I; the two boys were of similar age and had been educated together in a private School in St. Petersburg. Despite their closeness, there always remained a measure of conflict between them, which came to a head when Razumovsky, a handsome and brilliant marine officer, who had been ordered to accompany the Crown Prince's bride Princess von Hessen-Darmstadt to St. Petersburg, initiated an affair with her. Catherine the Great, sensing future disaster, thus sent him abroad and degraded him to the level of a diplomat. Later, under the rule of Alexander I, Razumovsky found himself back in favour during the Napoleonic War.. He was viewed in Europe as the leader of the anti-Napoleonic clique of Russia. At the Congress of Vienna, 1814, Alexander I had used the ambassadorial Razumovsky Palace in Vienna for lavish celebrations. In October 1814, he held a party for all 350 Russian and Allied Generals and their guests to celebrate victory in the same rooms that Field Marshal and national hero General Suvorov had once camped in on a bed made from straw. It has been recorded that the offered painting was gifted by Tsar Alexander I to his ambassador in the autumn of 1814 as a token of his great esteem. As with its owner, the painting endured a stormy fate: it survived fire in the residence on New Year's Eve in the winter of 1814/15, a fire which destroyed many of the paintings and works of art in the Razumovsky Palace. Much later, in 1945, it was hit by a fragment from a Soviet bomb which pierced the painting to the forehead of the Tsar. The hole, a part of the painting's history, has not been repaired and is visible from the photograph.