The offered work most probably forms part the renowned series of portraits of Elizaveta Petrovna commissioned from Louis Caravaque, who had painted the first official portrait of the new Empress following her coronation on 6th March 1742. On 7th May of the following year, Caravaque, who had replaced Johann Gottfried Tannauer (1680-1737) as painter to the Romanov Court, was asked to complete 14 portraits of the sovereign for Russian embassies abroad. Archival research into Russia's foreign affairs at the time has revealed the various stages of their composition.
Initially the 'ambitious artist from Gascony' promised to complete the commission within a year and without the aid of assistants. However, even after a decade, Caravaque had only finished eight of the portraits, which were distributed throughout Europe: a three-quarter length version was sent to Baron Korf in Stockholm, and later Copenhagen; two large portraits were sent to Count Golovkin in the Hague and Count Bestuzhev-Ryumin in Vienna; five bust portraits were sent to Count Keizerling in Dresden, Count Chernyshev in London, Count Panin in Stockholm, Lachinsky in Vienna and Prince Golitsyn in Hamburg.
When the Empress viewed the portraits and expressed dissatisfaction at how her hands had been painted, Caravaque revealed that he had in fact worked on the project with a team of artists in his studio and that one of his assistants had admitted to committing this error. After some 'necessary alterations', the canvases were finally sent by sea from St. Petersburg to Lübeck and then on to Hamburg before being forwarded on to their recipients.
In the offered lot, Caravaque's hand is evident in the rendering of Elizaveta Petrovna's face, which is painted with a far greater sensitivity and precision than her clothes and jewels, which attests to the collaboration between the great artist and his studio assistants needed to complete this important and demanding Imperial commission.
We are grateful to Dr. Liudmila Markina, Head of the Department of Painting from XVIII-first half of XIX century at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, for providing this note.
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