The Swedish artist Benjamin Patersson is well-known for his historical portraits and landscapes, and his views of St Petersburg hold a particularly important place in his oeuvre. Patersson's arrival in the Russian capital in 1787 was marked by an advertisement in the Sankt Peterburgskie vedomosti
: 'St. Petersburg has been visited by the artist Patersson, who executes portraits and history pictures in oil and pencil. He begs to inform all devotees of art that he is now living in Pogenpol’s house at Blue Bridge no.154' (January 22, 1787). Patersson’s popularity in Russia grew and in 1800 he was appointed official painter to the Imperial Court.
The present work depicts a sbitenschik
, or merchant selling sbiten, a traditional winter hot drink similar to mead, with honey, spices and herbs. Sbiten was a popular drink since the middle ages, and many painters, authors and composers reference sbitenschiks
in their work. Nikolai Gogol opens Dead Souls
(1842) with a description of a sbiten seller 'with a samovar of red copper, and a face as red as his samovar'.
The subject of the present lot is set against two key landmarks of St Petersburg - Falconet’s Bronze Horseman and the Academy of Arts. Two other versions of this work are known: one in the collection of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm; the other at Tsarskoe Selo.