Portrait of Empress Anna I Ioannovna
Second half of the 18th century
- oil on canvas. 96 х 80
Received in 1925 from the State Hermitage (collection of the Romanov Gallery)
Empress Anna I Ioannovna ((1693–1740) was the daughter of Tsar Ivan V Aleveyevich, and the niece of Peter the Great. She was married to the Duke of Courland in 1710. She was invited to take the throne of Russia by the Supreme Privy Council, which was formed of members of the senior aristocracy; their stipulation was that they should retain full power. Anna was Empress from 1730. After enlisting the support of the Guards she tore up the conditions that had been forced on her and became absolute ruler. Her domestic and foreign policies can be seen as a continuation of Peter the Great’s policies, and the capital was moved back to St Petersburg. The Office for Secret Investigation was set up in 1730, and it soon gained exceptional power and sowed fear among the population. Anna’s closest entourage was made up of foreigners, and in historiography her favourite, Ernst Johann von Biron, Duke of Courland, became a symbol of German domination. She has gone down in history as someone who loved “amusing incidents” and crude entertainments. Despite external piety she was noted for her brutal disposition.