This oval miniature with a gilt-metal frame depicts Tsar Alexander I (1777 – 1825) as a young man. He wears a black coat with gold buttons, a gold-figured red collar and gold epaulettes. The blue moiré sash and chest-star denote the Russian Order of St Andrew, the country’s patron saint. A black scarf at the monarch’s neck emphasises his strong jawline. Alexander is painted against a brown and beige background. The miniature is backed with maroon leather, inscribed with the number 1229, with a gold loop affixed to its top.
Tsar Alexander I was born in St Petersburg in 1777, and was the eldest son of Grand Duke Paul Petroich. His grandmother, Catherine the Great, took great interest in Alexander’s education, ensuring that he received a firm military training while encouraging in him a liberal, cosmopolitan outlook. He became Tsar in 1801, aged 23, following the death of his father. Though Alexander once described himself as ‘crushed beneath the terrible burden of a crown’, he nevertheless proved an effective reformer and moderniser who decentralised governmental power and relaxed censorship. His most significant achievement, however, was military. In 1812 he repelled Napoleon from Russia; two years later, he rode his army into Paris.