Buying Paintings and Building Up Nations : Notes on Catherine the Great

May 2 is the birthday of a ruler who showed off Russian power by acquiring treasure troves of European art. Yet key works of her collection now reside in a capital city that didn’t exist during her reign.

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Catherine II walking by V.Borovikovskiy (1794, Tretyakov gallery), image in public domain from Wikipedia.
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Portrait of Catherine II in front of a Mirror, Vigilius Erichsen (Eriksen), Denmark, 1760s, Oil on canvas, image in public domain from Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.
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Photo of Hermitage by A.Savin made available by Wikimedia Commons .
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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. 1606–1669, Sacrifice of Isaac, 1635. Image from Hermitage website.
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Author photo of Fish Market by Frans Snyders. 1579–1657, with landscape credited to Jan Wildens.
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Fish Market, c. 1618–1621. Hermitage. Snyders, Wildens.
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Greengrocers Stall, c. 1618–1621. Hermitage. Snyders, Wildens
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Detail of Greengrocers.

Notion of Nations

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Left, f Catherine II in front of a Mirror, Vigilius Erichsen (Eriksen), Denmark, 1760s, Oil on canvas, image in public domain from Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. R, Marie Antoinette, portrait by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun: Wikipedia image of work in public domain, Kunsthistorisches Museum.)
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Left, copy of a portrait of Catherine in Russian dress, c. 1760s, image from the State Historical Museum, Moscow. R, 1908 photo of Tsaritsa Alexandra Fyodorovna (Alix of Hesse), Wikipedia copy image in public domain.
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R, Wikipedia copy of portrait of Alexis I of Russia, 1670s, Ptuj Ormož Regional Museum. R. Heinrich Buchholz, , portrait of Peter the Great from the Hermitage website.
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L, excerpt of Google Map showing the hometowns of Catherine the Great and her husband. R, map showing the larger region, including Saint Petersburg.
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Left, copy of a portrait of Catherine in Russian dress, c. 1760s, image from the State Historical Museum, Moscow. Right, Rembrandt’s Polish Nobleman, 1637, National Gallery of Art. Washington, D,C, Andrew Mellon Collection.
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Rembrandt’s Polish Nobleman, 1637, National Gallery of Art. Washington, D,C, Andrew Mellon Collection.

Scattered Treasures

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Frans Hals, Portrait of a Young Man,1646/164, National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
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Rembrandt’s Polish Nobleman, 1637, National Gallery of Art. Washington, D,C, Andrew Mellon Collection.
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Rembrandt Workshop (Possibly Carel Fabritius),A Girl With a Broom, probably begun 1646/1648 and completed 1651. National Gallery of Art. Andrew W. Mellon Collection

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Journalist fascinated by art, history, medicine, politics and food. Has visited museums on six continents, eaten in more than 50 nations. Knows FDA, Congress.

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