Orest Kiprensky (1778-1836)
Orest Kiprensky (1778-1836)

Portrait of Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich Galitzine (1804-1860)

Orest Kiprensky (1778-1836)
Portrait of Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich Galitzine (1804-1860)
signed and dated 'ORESTE K/1833' (lower right)
oil on canvas, with painted feigned dome
37 x 53½ in. (94 x 136 cm.)
Acquired by the present owner in the 1980s.

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Aino-Leena Grapin
Aino-Leena Grapin

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Lot Essay

Mikhail Alexandrovich Galitzine was the son of Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Galitzine (1772-1821), Master of the Court of Grand-Duchess Elizaveta Alekseevna and Grand-Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna, and Princess Natalia Fedorovna Shakhovskaia (1779-1807), Maid of Honour to Empress Elizaveta Alekseevna. Mikhail Alexandrovich was born in St Petersburg and spent his childhood and youth in Paris, where he met many famous artists and writers at the house of his aunt E. I. Galitzine. In 1822 he received a clerical job at the College of Foreign Affairs. In 1823 he was appointed to the Board of the Moscow Archives and was later appointed to positions in Florence (1824) and Rome (1836). In 1831 he was promoted to the bedchamber. In 1836 he was released from his post due to health issues. In 1854 he was elected as an honorary trustee of the St Petersburg Gymnasium. From 1855 he was master of ceremonies and in 1856 he was appointed Master of Ceremonies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1856 he was a convoy to Madrid. In 1857 he became a state councillor and chamberlain. From 1859, in accordance with his uncle, S. M. Galitzine's will, he became Honorary Chief Director of the Moscow Galitzine Hospital. He died in Montpelier, where he was receiving medical treatment and was buried in the Monastery of Campo Santo in Bologna, as he had converted to Catholicism. His marriage to Duchess Maria Il'inichna Dolgorukova resulted in a single son, Sergei Mikhailovich (1843-1915).

V. A. Mukhanov characterised Galitzine in his diary thus: 'Miseducation provided him with a direction, which did not quite correspond to his standing; an exaggerated inclination towards the foreign and, unfortunately, alienation from his own country prevented him from doing good for his homeland, of which he was capable. His enlightened mind, kind heart, great courtesy and grace made all interactions with Prince Galitzine a great pleasure. The Prince had noble taste: he loved paintings, statues, antique furniture, but his special passion was his love for antique books' (V. A. Mukhanov, Iz dnevnih zapisok [Daily notes], 1896, book III, no. 10, pp. 161-199; no. 11, pp. 326-336; no. 12, pp. 547-568; 1897, book I, no. 1, pp. 45-109; no. 2, pp. 267-301; book II, no. 5, pp. 75-94).

The portrait was executed in 1833 in Rome, where Oreste Kiprensky had returned from Naples in the spring of 1832. In December of the same year his studio was visited by A. I. Turgenev, who wrote the following note in his diary: '7 December. In the morning I visited Kiprensky. 18 December. I visited Kiprensky's atelier at the Hotel de Paris and saw his paintings and portraits. Views of Naples, Rome, the portrait of his father, the unfinished portrait of Prince Galitzine, he also read to me his correspondence with Galitzine and Gagarin' (Orest Kiprensky. Perepiska, dokumenti, svidetelstva sovremennikov [Correspondance, documents, testimony of contemporaries], 1994, pp. 462-463). N. V. Kukolnik, Kiprensky's biographer, noted: 'At the start of 1833 while in Rome, Kiprensky painted a portrait of Thorvaldsen and portraits of the two brothers, the Princes Galitzine' (ibid, p. 496; in note no. 13 (p. 729) it is also mentioned that at this time the artist painted portraits of F. A. Galitzine (Saratov Fine Art Museum) and M. I. Galitzine.

The present work's signature is in Latin and is identical to the artist's signature on his portrait of the sculptor B. Thorvaldsen (1833, State Russian Museum), which was painted at the same time as the portraits of the Galitzine brothers.

During his first visit to Italy, Kiprensky painted a portrait of Duke A. M. Galitzine (circa 1819, State Tretyakov Gallery), father of F. A. and M. I. Galitzine. The format of the work and compositional aspects of these paintings correspond to one another. The attribution to Kiprensky is supported by stylistic elements, the painterly style and the high quality of this work. Portrait of M. A. Galitzine, 1833, painted by O. A. Kiprensky is undoubtedly of historical and cultural significance.

We are grateful to Dr Ludmila Markina, Director of the 18th and 19th century paintings department at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, for her assistance in cataloguing this work and providing this note.

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