H. Baudis, op. cit., lists five other portraits of the sitter by the same artist: the first, on canvas, 63 x 50 cm, signed and dated 1808, inv. n0G1297; the second, on canvas, 105 x 81 cm, signed and dated 1818, inv. n01456; the third and fourth of 1821, on canvas, 108 x 85 cm respectively 96 x 77 cm, two versions of the same portrait, inv. n0G1454, and the last on canvas, 65 x 50 cm, inv. n0G1597, all in the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin.
The artist was the son of the painter Johann Heinrich Suhrlandt, who worked in Ludwigslust and was appointed court painter in 1784. In 1799 Suhrlandt entered the Academy in Dresden, where he is recorded to have painted many copies after masterpieces in the Gemäldegalerie (see lot 36A), following the guidelines of the great art historian J. J. Winckelmann. Impressed by his artistic qualities, Friedrich Franz I granted him a stipend that allowed him to study in Vienna from 1803 onwards. He is recorded to have worked there until 1808, when he went to Italy. He was praised by his contemporaries for his skills in portraiture, and this led to his appointment as court painter by Friedrich Franz I circa 1810. However, this did not lure him back to Mecklenburg. He returned to Ludwigslust in 1816, became professor but travelled again, to Vienna, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, London, Amsterdam and Paris. He returned for good to Ludwigslust in 1855, when he was already 74 years old. (H. Baudis, op.cit).
The sitter was the son of Ludwig, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1725-1778) and Charlotte Sophie, née Duchess of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1731-1810). He married Luise, Princess of Sachsen-Gotha-Roda (1756-1808) on 31 May 1775. Friedrich Franz I succeeded his uncle Friedrich der Fromme to the throne after his death in 1785. As related by J. Borchert in Mecklenburg Grossherzöge 1815-1918, 1992, pp.8-30, he decided to keep the Ducal residence in Ludwigslust, built by Friedrich der Fromme. Though spending the winters there with his family, he chose Bad Doberan, the first Seebad in Germany, founded in 1793, as his summer residence. One of his first political acts was to close down Fridericiana, the University that his uncle had built in 1760 in Bützow. He bought back Wredenhagen, Marnitz, Eldena and Plau, that had been pawned to Prussia in 1734. Though Schwerin suffered a great deal from the Napoleonic occupation (in 1807 Friedrich Franz I went into a short exile in Altona near Hamburg), cultural life at the court continued, and after the peace-treaty of 1815 the artefacts that Napoleon had seized were brought back from Paris. It was Gebhard Leberecht von Blüchner, a military commander from Schwerin, who came to the Duke of Wellingtons' aid at Waterloo in June 1815, thus bringing about the defeat of Napoleon. In the same year, Friedrich Franz I received the title of Grand-Duke. Acknowledged as a liberal, peacefully inclined ruler, Friedrich Franz I was, among many things, responsible for the abolition of corporal punishment, as was his nephew Adolf Friedrich IV in Strelitz (see lot 23).
See colour illustration