Paul Troubetskoy was born in Italy to an American mother and a father from a Russian aristocratic family. After pursuing a brief military career in Russia at his father's behest, Trubetskoy returned to Italy where he studied sculpture in Milan under the tutelage of Giuseppe Grandi. His first public recognition came in 1894 when he won a gold medal in Rome for a statue Indian Scout based on the Buffalo Bill show that had been in Milan the year before. Inspired by his success the young sculptor decided to return to Russia and soon began to teach at the Moscow School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture, the most independent and progressive art institution in Russian at the time. He developed his independent style following a more impressionistic, highly personalized style.
Troubetskoy's works are an immediate and unpretentious record of the artist's impressions underscored by the visible and expressive traces of modeling left on the sculpture's surface. One of Trubetskoy most famous sculptures, the bust of famous Russian writer Lev Tolstoy, most likely was modeled around 1895 when Tolstoy sat for the sculptor in Iasnaia Poliana, the writer's family estate (fig.1). The work captures the personality of the enigmatic writer in an elegant and unpretentious way. Later one critic commented: 'His portrait of Tolstoy, for example, shows how much virility he (Troubetskoy) can concentrate in a small bust, in a small statuette showing a human apostle in effigies which are revelatory and definitive, with the profound intelligence of the eyes, the luminous projection of his head, his bushy eyebrows, his flowing beard, the self-assured calm of the crossed arms - one senses in this silhouette a robust old man, a warrior at rest, the writer who had no time for 'art for art's sake.'
In 1900 Troubetskoy was awarded a Grand Prix at the World Exposition in Paris for this and two other sculptures. Tolstoy's bust was seen as extremely impressionistic, pulsing with spontaneity and life, and was singled out as an outstanding example of the sculptor's art. A French critic at the time of the Exposition compared Troubetskoy to the Great Rodin. Fourteen years later Trubetskoy went on a grand tour of the United States visiting New York, Chicago, Toledo, Washington, Detroit, San Francisco, and Los Angeles exhibiting many of his sculptures, including the bust of Tolstoy. In 1914 Ambassador Crane commissioned several small-scale sculptures of his family members from Troubetskoy (fig. 2), and might have acquired the bust of Lev Tolstoy from the sculptor in the same year. Crane and Tolstoy knew one another. Determined to educate his fellow-Americans about Russia, Crane funded a Slavic chair at the University of Chicago. In the spring of 1900 accompanied by his friend William Harper, President of the University, Crane embarked on a trip to his beloved Russia in search of the appropriate guest speakers for the program. One of the candidates on the list was Lev Tolstoy. They traveled to Iasnaia Poliana and extended the invitation to the famous writer. Although very interested in the idea, Tolstoy was unable to accept the offer due to his poor health.