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probably by François Gérard, Alexander I, Tsar of Russia

Core Record

Title Alexander I, Tsar of Russia
Collection Oxford Portraits: University of Oxford
Artist probably by François Gérard
Date 1814-1816
Acquisition gift from Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, 2 December 1816
Description Whole length, standing in a landscape, facing viewer, head turned three-quarters to left; grey eyes, fresh complexion; short light auburn curly hair and whiskers; in the uniform of a Russian field marshal: black stock, green coat with gold epaulettes and red facings embroidered with gold; ribbon of St Andrew over his left shoulder and under his right arm; the ribbon partially obscures the star of the same order on his left breast with the Sword of Sweden beneath; silver sword belt; white breeches; high boots with silver spurs; four medals attached to his coat, from left to right: the Silver Cross of St George of Russia, the Russian Medal of 1814, the badge of the Order of Maria Theresa, and the Iron Cross of Prussia; his left hand, gloved, holds glove and hilt of sword, his right hangs down, gold ring on fourth finger, holding plumed, gold-braided hat; landscape background with lake and mountain scenery.

Given to the University by the Emperor, in response to a request made after the visit of the Allied Sovereigns to Oxford in 1814. The Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Prince Blücher were present with the Allies, and the University celebrated the occasion with a banquet in the Radcliffe Camera. Soon afterwards, it was

'Resolved, That the Chancellor be desired in the name of this Board humbly to request H.R.H. the Prince Regent to honour the University with the Gracious Present of his Portrait to be placed in the Picture Gallery in perpetual remembrance of the distinguished honour of H.R.H.'s visit.

Resolved also, That when the Presents intended for their Imperial Royal Majesties, the Emperor of Russia & King of Prussia, shall be transmitted to them from this University, a similar request be preferred in the name of this Board to each of those Sovereigns.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 20 June 1814, Hebdomadal Register 1803-23, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/3, p.349, extra folio)

'The following form of a Letter of Thanks to the Emperor of Russia for the gracious Present of his Portrait, [was] laid before the Board and approved' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 2 Dec 1816, Hebdomadal Register 1803-23, ibid., p.408)

The portraits of both Emperors (for that of Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, see OP18), were hung beside a portrait of George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence (OP19) in the Sheldonian Theatre, where all three monarchs were conferred with honorary Doctorates in Civil Law in the course of their visit. The Emperors' portraits by Gérard were conceived as part of a historical group, and intended to be considered together. The versions in Oxford are in similar, but not identical, ornate gold frames, surmounted by crowns, and now hang side by side in the South Writing School.

References to the Emperor's portrait in Joseph Farington's diary suggest that the version in Oxford was probably painted by Gérard. On 28 Oct 1815 Farington noted: 'Sir Thos. Lawrence I dined with. ... We had much conversation about France, and what was going on. - He said He found Gerard, the French History & Portrait Painter, in very high repute there. He had painted Portraits of the Duke of Wellington, the Emperor of Austria, The Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia; for each of which He was to have one thousand guineas. - His Process in Painting is by touches of Colour, not by strokes of the Pencil. (The Diary of Joseph Farington, 16 vols, 1978-1998, ed. K. Garlick, A. Macintyre and K. Cave, XIV, ed. K. Cave, p.4724)

On 23 March 1818, Farington recorded that 'A Portrait of the Emperor of Russia and of the King of Prussia painted at Paris by Gerard have been presented to the University of [blank] by their magistrates' (ibid., XVI, p.5179). On 24 Aug 1821, he noted that he 'had some conversation with Mr. Balmano who had come to look at the pictures. At Oxford, He sd., he had seen Sir Thos. Portrait of the present King, and placed near it Portraits of the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia by Gerard, the French Painter' (ibid., p.5721).

The miniature painter, George Perfect Harding, who saw both Emperors portraits hanging in the Sheldonian, noted 'Gerard' next to each name his 'List of Portraits, Pictures in Various Mansions of the United Kingdom' (bound mss, 1804 - [1858?], 4 vols, 3, p.145, National Portrait Gallery Archive, London)

After the portrait had been moved into the Bodleian Picture Gallery Charles Coppock, Janitor of the Bodleian Library, noted in his copy of the catalogue 'Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, Died 1825 By Gerrard This came from the Theatre.' (C. Coppock, ms annotation in J. Norris, A Catalogue of the Pictures, Models, Busts &c. in the Bodleian Gallery and Library, Oxford, [1847] facing p.10, Schola Logicae, Bodleian Library)

A copy 'par l'artiste habile ... ou du moins sous ses auspices immédiats' at Apsley House, London (Victoria and Albert Museum Collection), was given by the Emperor to the Duke of Wellington in 1817. (Letter from Le Comte de Nesselrode to the Duke of Wellington, April 1817, published in E.K.G. Wellesley, A descriptive & historical catalogue of the collection of pictures and sculpture at Apsley House, London, 1901, p.310) In this copy, the Emperor wears the Ribbon of St Andrew from his right shoulder, as he also does in the copy in the Musée National du Château de Malmaison (given to the museum in the twentieth century by Princess Marie Bonaparte), and in the replica in the Musée National du Château de Versailles acquired from the painter's widow, together with 82 other whole length replica portraits, in 1837. Evelyn Wellesley, and also C.M. Kauffmann in his catalogue of paintings in the Wellington Museum, also give varying identifications of the Emperor's medals in the portrait at Apsley House.

The depiction of the ribbon in this version, which was painted before that done for the Duke of Wellington in 1817, suggests that Gérard may have varied later copies to ensure that the Emperor's medals and orders were clearly visible.
External Link Oxford Portraits website
Id Number Current Accession 18
Measurements 64 x 92 in.
Sitter Biographical Notes Alexander I, Tsar of Russia (1777-1825)
The son of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich, afterwards Emperor Paul I, and Maria Fedorovna of Würtemberg; he married Louisa Maria of Baden in 1793, and succeeded to the throne in 1801.
Artist Biographical Notes probably by François Gérard (1770-1837)
Donor Biographical Notes Alexander I, Tsar of Russia (1777-1825)
The son of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich, afterwards Emperor Paul I, and Maria Fedorovna of Würtemberg; he married Louisa Maria of Baden in 1793, and succeeded to the throne in 1801.
Relation References An account of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent and Their Imperial and Royal Majesties The Emperor of Russia and The King of Prussia to the University of Oxford in June MDCCCXIV... (1815); [G.F.] Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain,
Rights University of Oxford



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