Painting Catherine II on a Walk in Tsarskoye Selo Park by Vladimir Borovikovsky a chamber portrait of the Empress in sentimental traditions
The Empress appears before the viewer against the background of the dense greenery of the park, accompanied by her beloved Italian greyhound. Leaning on a cane, she is thinking about something, smiling thoughtfully. Catherine’s outfit is emphatically unofficial: a cap, a spacious dressing gown, a lace frill with a satin bow. In her appearance there is no splendor, attributes of power, secular gloss.
However, the posture, the queen’s gestures are full of dignity, her inner strength is felt. As if by chance, she points with her hand in the direction of the Chesme Column a structure symbolizing the victory of the Russians in the war against the Turks. Borovikovsky’s portrait of the empress turned out to be lyrical, chamber, which corresponds to the features of sentimentalism.
In the appearance of the ruler, the human principle is emphasized, and the landscape background plays an important role in this: the dense crown of a tree, a pond with swans, a quiet shady alley. The heroine is natural and sincere, in harmony with nature and herself.
Title of the painting: “Catherine II Walking in Tsarskoye Selo Park”.
Author: Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825).
Year of writing: 1794
Size: 84.5 x 66 cm.
Genre: Portrait. Technique: Oil.
Location: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Vladimir Borovikovsky is a talented portrait painter of the 18th-19th centuries.
Beginning in the 1790s, the artist began to depict the heroes of his works in a chamber, home setting. It was in this manner that the painting “Catherine II on a Walk in Tsarskoye Selo Park” was painted. Before Borovikovsky, the Empress in portraits was always inaccessible, majestic. This is how she appears, for example, in the work of Fyodor Rokotov: unapproachable, sitting on the throne, with all the monarchical regalia.
In the painting by Dmitry Levitsky, Catherine is located in the temple of the ancient goddess Themis, personifying justice, the observance of state interests. In the portrait of Borovikovsky, it is not an omnipotent ruler who gazes at the viewer, but a completely earthly elderly woman.
The master did not have a chance to paint the Empress of All Russia from life. He often saw her on a walk, but Marya Perekusikhina, the empress’s room servant, posed for the artist in the tsar’s attire.
The portrait was not created to order: it was supposed to amaze Catherine and her entourage.
However, the picture did not make an impression on the tsarina, she did not buy the work, and the painter, contrary to his expectations, was not awarded the title of academician. The work changed several owners, and then became the property of the Tretyakov Gallery.
Years later, Vladimir Borovikovsky created the second version of the portrait. Catherine appears here against the background of the Kagul obelisk, also erected after the victory over the Turks in the battle of the same name. In the picture, the background has not only changed: the heroine herself looks more strict, her face no longer has such a kind, natural smile.
The painting “Catherine II on a Walk in Tsarskoye Selo Park” by Vladimir Borovikovsky began to arouse even greater interest thanks to the story “The Captain’s Daughter” by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin. Describing in the XIV chapter of the work the queen with her ruddy plump face, expressing importance, calmness, touched by a light smile, the classic seems to be “quoting” the artist’s masterpiece.