Portrait of Tsar Nicholas I

Alois Gustav RockstuhlYear: 1850
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Miniature on ivory
Signed and dated to left of image

This portrait by the celebrated Russian miniaturist Alois Gustav Rockstuhl (1798-1877) depicts Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) in full ceremonial uniform. He wears a black coat with a red trim and silver epaulettes. His coat is decorated with two breast-stars, belonging to the Order of St Vladimir and the Order of St Andrew, Russia’s patron saint, and a row of medals. The Tsar’s clothing closely resembles that shown in the 1852 portrait of him by Franz Krüger, currently held at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. This oval miniature has a gilt frame. It is signed and dated above the Tsar’s left epaulette.

Alois Gustav Rockstuhl was born in 1798 and was the son of the well-known miniaturist Peter Ernst Rockstuhl (1764-1824). He studied from 1832 at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg and in 1840 became a professor there. Two years later, Nicholas I appointed him as an official court artist. The younger Rockstuhl is distinguished among painters of his generation by the fact that he worked exclusively in miniatures. His exquisite style is testament to his decision to focus on the medium.

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. This miniature depicts the Tsar as a mature man. His high forehead and moustache emphasise the sense of the Tsar as an experienced, determined man in full command of his faculties.

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