Portrait of Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna

Italy, 1750

The Gascon artist Louis Caravaque came to Russia in 1716 and the country became his second homeland. He painted numerous portraits of Peter the Great and members of the imperial family. Under Anna Ioannovna in the 1730s Caravaque was appointed first painter to the court and he retained that position under Peter’s daughter Elizabeth. In the 1740s the artist produced a cycle of eight portraits of the Empress for Russian embassies abroad. One of the depictions was presented to Vice-Chancellor Mikhail Vorontsov. He used Caravaque’s portrait as the basis for a mosaic likeness that he commissioned from the Italian craftsman Alessandro Cocchi. Cocchi came from a family of specialists whose members worked in the Vatican mosaic workshop from the 17th century to the 19th. A magnificent frame of gilded bronze was made for the portrait of the Russian Empress was made by the prominent silversmith Luigi Valadier. The portrait was brought to St Petersburg by the artist Georg Caspar Prenner, who came to Russia at Vorontsov’s invitation. The mosaic masterpiece was put on display in the Vice-Chancellor’s palace on Sadovaya Street. This work made a powerful impression on Mikhail Lomonosov, the future creator of mosaics in Russia. The scientist and poet devoted these lines of verse to the Italian craftsman’s creation: «At Venus or Fortuna do I gaze And by an ancient art’s exemplar am amazed …»


Portrait of Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna

Place of creation:





Rome mosaic; cast, chased and gilded


95x78 cm

Acquisition date:

Transferred from the private apartments of Alexander II in the Winter Palace

Inventory Number:



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