Portrait of Tsar Nicholas I

Ivan Winberg1840
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Miniature on ivory
Signed ‘Winberg’ to mid-right of image

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This miniature by the renowned miniaturist Ivan Winberg depicts Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855). Nicholas wears a black coat with gold buttons, a gold-figured red collar and gold epaulettes. The blue moiré sash across his chest belongs to the Russian Order of St Andrew, the patron saint of Russia. In addition, the emperor wears the breast-stars of the Imperial Russian Orders of St Andrew and of St Vladimir combined with the British Order of the Garter, and various medals. Nicholas is painted against a cloudy sky, in a square gilt-wood frame adorned with Imperial Russian eagles.

The third and youngest son of Tsar Paul I, Nicholas I’s motto was ‘autocracy, Orthodoxy and nationality’: the cornerstones of the Tsar’s  leadership style. Believing himself divinely ordained to expand the Russian homeland, Nicholas embarked on a series of wars including the Crimean War of 1853-56, which ultimately proved disastrous for Russia. He is depicted turning away from the viewer, as if gazing into the middle distance: this pose is highly characteristic of Winberg’s portraits of the monarch from this period.

Ivan Winberg, a well-known Russian miniaturist of Swedish origin, studied at the Imperial Academy in St Petersburg; in 1846, he became a professor of miniature painting there. He regularly exhibited his miniatures at annual academic exhibitions. Today his works can be viewed in major museums nationally and internationally, including: the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, the Hermitage, St Petersburg, and the Victoria and Albert, London.

Note: This is one of a pair with the Portrait of Alexandra Feodorovna by the same artist, which is housed in an identical frame.

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