Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great
Second half of the 18th century
By the definition of Pyotr Petrov, the Empress is depicted "standing in a brocade dress and a blue cimarra (a gown with a ling train)", with ribbons and stars of the orders of St. Andrew and St. George. The favourite English greyhound of Catherine, named Sir Tom Anderson or Duchessa, is sitting in the chair next to her. The portrait is a copy of the original painted by Pierre-Etienne Falconet (The State Hermitage Museum), painted by a professional master in the last quarter of the 18th century.
Empress Catherine II (the Great; 1729–1796), née Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, was born in the Prussian city of Stettin. In 1744, she arrived in Russia as the bride of Grand Duke Peter Feodorovich, the future Emperor Peter III. That same year, she converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Catherine Alexeyevna. She married Peter Feodorovich in August 1745. In 1754 she gave birth to an heir, the future Emperor Paul I. The relationship with her husband did not work out, and he planned to have her sent to a convent. In the summer of 1762 she led a conspiracy of Peter’s guards and overthrew him, becoming Empress. In the first years of her reign she adhered to a policy of “enlightened absolutism”, but after the peasant rebellion led by Emelyan Pugachev (1773–1775) and the French Revolution (1789), she was forced to toughen her regime. She led victorious campaigns against Turkey (1768–1774; 1787–1792) and Sweden (1788–1790). During her reign, the Crimea (1783), the Northern Baltic Sea, the Baltic states, the eastern part of Poland, and the Aleutian Islands became part of Russia. Russian settlements were established in Alaska, and Eastern Georgia was taken under the protection of Russia. Russia’s prestige in Europe increased greatly.