TISCHBEIN Johann Friedrich August (1750-1812)
Oil on canvas
H. 76.5 cm; W. 61 cm
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum, ГЭ -9786
Signed and dated in bottom-left corner "Tischbein p : [ictor] 1798".
In 1793, Luise of Prussia (1776-1810), the daughter of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, married the newly crowned King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III. Strongly attached to the Prussian royal family, Luise took her role as wife, mother and monarch very seriously and also maintained close ties with her sister, Frederica, who had also married a Prussian prince but had been widowed. As a confirmed opponent to Napoleon's policies, she considered the French Emperor to be a personal enemy. Following the Battle of Jena, with French troops pouring into Prussian territory, Luise and her children fled initially to Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) before continuing on to Memel. After the Peace of Tilsit was signed, she met Napoleon and asked him, in vain, to impose less severe conditions in the treaty. She was extremely popular and after her premature death in 1810, she became a symbol of Prussian patriotism.
Johann Friedrich August Tischbein was very much in demand as a portrait artist, and his works clearly reveal the influence of both French artists such as Fragonard, Greuze and Vigée-Lebrun, and English portraitists, such as Gainsborough and Romney. During the 1790s, he was, unlike many of his contemporaries, well-recognised throughout Europe. His elegant style, the fluidity of his compositions, the soft rendering of his models' complexions, and the harmony of his palette were all strongly anchored in the German sentimentalist movement of the late 18th century. Despite his tendency to often touch up his subjects' blemishes, the physical resemblance and the model's personal preferences remained Tischbein's principal preoccupations. In this work, the artist is not looking to paint a psychological portrait but instead offer a profoundly sentimental treatment of a figure who was greatly loved and respected across Germany. It was in 1796 that the artist was invited to Berlin to paint Luise and her sister Frederica, but the painting that hangs in the Hermitage Museum dates from 1798. It is highly likely that the painting arrived in Russia with Frederica Louise Charlotte Wilhelmina, Luise's daughter and the future tsarina, following her marriage to Nicolas I, brother of Alexander I.