Peter the Great at the Queen’s Gallery

Portrait of Peter the Great of Russia by Sir Godfrey Kneller. 1698.

This picture of Peter the Great is one of many interesting works that can be seen at the exhibition  Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs,  currently running at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The picture features in my talk ‘The Bronze Horseman‘ which tells the story of the founding of St Petersburg, and also appears in ‘Russian Travellers in Europe in the late 18th Century.’

The portrait was painted by Kneller as a gift to the King of England.  Peter visited England and the Low Countries with a large group of followers during what is known as his Grand Embassy. Unlike later Russian travellers, who undertook ‘Grand Tours’ later in the century,  Peter’s expedition was of a largely utilitarian nature, although he did find time to indulge in entertainment.

The young Tsar had just achieved full control of Russia.  He was aiming to modernise his country, and his trip was focussed on learning more about the West and developing new skills. He also hoped to encourage closer diplomatic ties with Western powers.

In the picture Peter presents himself as a typical Western monarch.  The painting is not unlike that of James ll painted by Kneller in 1683 in a very similar pose

Portrait of James ll and Vl in armour, Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1683.

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