Painting “Catherine II – Legislator in the Temple of the Goddess of Justice” by Dmitry Levitsky as the personification of the ideal monarch of the Russian Empire of the XVIII century
The artist depicted the Empress as a priestess, dressed in an ivory-colored robe resembling a toga. The heroine stands in the temple of the ancient goddess of justice in front of a sculpture of Themis and throws poppy flowers into the sacrificial fire. At the feet of the empress is an eagle sitting on books, and behind her are ships on the high seas. Catherine is majestic and self-confident, her figure symbolizes triumph, glorification and luxury.
Author: Dmitry Grigorievich Levitsky (1735-1822).
Year of writing: 1783
Size: 261 x 201 cm.
Style: Classicism. Russian classicism.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas. Location: State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
Dmitry Grigoryevich Levitsky is a famous Russian painter who worked in the 18th-19th centuries.
The ceremonial portrait of the queen was commissioned by Prince Bezborodko, the artist’s patron and great admirer of painting. The masterpiece is written in the spirit of canonical classicism: clear and strict forms, soft muted palette. At the same time, the master managed to combine real objects of his time with allegorical attributes in his work:
- legislative books personify the educated head of state;
- the formidable eagle guards the integrity of the Law and guarantees its execution;
- warships in the background symbolize the victories in the Black Sea, and the rod of Mercury depicted on the flag means the protection of the merchant fleet;
- the burning of poppy flowers shows that the autocrat sacrifices her own sleep and peace for the good of the state.
The author painted several copies of the masterpiece. The most famous among them is “Portrait of Catherine II in the form of a legislator in the temple of the goddess of Justice.” The work is exhibited at the Tretyakov Gallery and differs from the original in the saturation of the palette.
The artist reflected in the picture all the ideas of his contemporaries about what the monarch of enlightened Russia should be like. Today, the work is kept in the Russian Museum.