mid to late 1700s
Watercolor on ivory in a 19th-century gilt metal frame
Diameter: 8.6 cm (3 3/8 in.); Diameter of frame: 10.2 cm (4 in.)
Gift of Ellen Wade Chinn, Elizabeth Wade Sedgwick and J. H. Wade III in memory of their mother Irene Love Wade 1966.383
This portrait of Alexander Bezborodko, chancellor of Russia from 1747 to 1799, was painted by Pierre-Charles Cior in the final years of the 18th century. Previously a foreign minister for Catherine the Great, the prince became grand chancellor of the Russian empire upon the 1797 accession to the throne of Catherine's son Paul I. In this position, Bezborodko reformed the post office, regulated the banking systems, and constructed roads. Here he is shown dressed in a blue uniform with the blue sash of the Order of Saint Andrew over the red and black sash of the Order of Saint Vladimir. Pinned over his left breast are stars and badges of the Order of Saint Andrew as well as the Maltese cross. Around his neck is the decoration of the Order of Saint Alexander Nevsky, which is encrusted with diamonds. Bezbrodko holds a miniature of Paul I in his right hand while resting his left arm on a leopard pillow. He poses in front of a lavish green curtain and classical colonnade.
Trained under the Spanish miniaturist Juan Bauzil, Cior became the official miniaturist of the king of Spain and a court painter in Russia, likely creating this portrait during his extended stay in Petrograd. His depiction of Bezborodko is unusual; when compared to the rest of the prince's body, his legs appear diminutive, as if the artist failed to leave enough room for them when painting. This miniature dates from early in Cior's career, and Bezborodko's small lower body may be a result of the immature artist experimenting with composition. The tiny portrait of Paul I that Bezborodko holds in his right hand relates to a late 18th-century oil painting of the king attributed to A. F. Mitrokhin. Cior's inclusion of the miniature of Paul I demonstrates how miniatures were handled by their owners and how they could be used in portraits to lend credibility or show allegiance.
Ashley Bartman (May 2014)
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