- Jean-Laurent Mosnier
- Portrait of Arkady Alexandrovich Suvorov (1784-1811)
- signed in Latin and dated 1805 l.l.
- oil on canvas
- 129 by 99cm, 50 3/4 by 39in.
Thence by descent to Countess Alexandra Alexandrovna Suvorova-Rimnitskaya, Princess Italiskaya, the granddaughter of Count Arkady Alexandrovich Suvorov-Rimnitsky and widow of S.V.Koslov (1844-1928)
Unfortunately, Arkady became a part of the Grand Duke Konstantin’s circle, which was known for gambling and debauchery. However, in 1799 he achieved the rank of Imperial General-Adjutant and joined his father in the Italian-Swiss campaign. Six months of battles and campaigning under the severest conditions revealed him as a brave and knowledgeable officer and finally gained him his father’s love. In 1806, he won the battle against the French for the city of Ostrov-Mazovetsky, for which he was awarded the Order of St George 4th class and in 1809 he revealed himself as a notable diplomat when his skilful negotiations avoided a confrontation with the Polish army when the Russians took Krakow from the Austrians.
Arkady married Elena Alexandrovna Narishkina, a relative of Emperor Paul I, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. He died in April 1811, en route to join his troops in Iasi in Romania during the Russo-Turkish war. Attempting to cross the flooded Rymnik river his carriage overturned and Arkady, so legend has it, drowned saving his coachman. Ironically, it was near the same river in 1789 that his father achieved one of his most famous victories, when his army defeated Turkish forces four times larger than his own, after which Catherine the Great bestowed on him the title Count Suvorov-Rymnitsky.
'Prince Suvorov was tall, blond, very strong and one of the most handsome men of his time’, wrote Arkady’s contemporary, P.H.Grabbe. ‘…he had the bravest heart and the name, which is immortal in the hearts of the people. He was the idol of officer and soldier. He was a passionate gambler and hunter and that passion badly affected his fortune. But he had such kindness and noble nature that it was impossible not to respect him, even more not to love him'.
Jean-Laurent Mosnier trained as a miniature painter at the Académie de St Luc, Paris. In 1801 he went to St Petersburg, where Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was achieving great success, but she returned to France later that year, leaving the field to Mosnier. In 1802 he was accepted into the St Petersburg Academy, becoming a professor in 1806.
A versatile and prolific portrait painter, Mosnier used his skill as a miniaturist to good effect in his highly finished full size portraits. He was a favourite painter of the Empress Elizabeth, wife of Alexander I, whom he painted frequently, as well as the Emperor and Maria Fedorovna, wife of Paul I. His portraits of the Russian aristocracy hang in the Hermitage, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum and the Pavlovsk Museum, as well as many a number of regional Russian galleries. His self-portrait, exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1786, now hangs in the Hermitage.
In Mosnier’s portrait, Suvorov wears three orders, the Order of St Anne First Class, the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus of Sardinia and the Order of Maria Theresia of Austria, which he received after his participation in the Swiss Italian campaign of 1800. A similar portrait in the Suvorov Museum in St Petersburg shows Suvorov in exactly the same pose and with a similar background, but wearing in addition the Order of St George Fourth Class, which he received in 1807. Mosnier was a favourite of the Narishkin family, and painted Suvorov’s father-in-law and two brothers-in-law in similar poses to the Suvorov portrait (figs.1 and 2).
An engraving after the present lot is published in M.Stremeukhov and P.Simansky, Zhizn' Suvorova v khudozhestvennikh izobrazheniyakh, Moscow, 1900, p.189. Two editions of the Russian periodical Starye gody make reference to the present lot. See An exhibition of images of Suvorov in the barracks of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment, Starye gody, June 1909, p.317; Postbox, Starye gody, November 1909, pp.653-654. For a fuller account of the Suvorov Museum portrait see B.Galenko, 'Iconography of Arkady Alexandrovich Suvorov', Suvorovky muzei. 100 let v istorii Rossii 1904-2004, St Petersburg, 2007, pp.106-109.