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Ferdinand de Meys "Major General Prince A. P. Shcherbatov", important Russian miniature, 1793
( for EUR price see date rate )
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On view here is a 1st-class quality miniature portrait of a mid-aged Russian general (due to his high ranking awards) from the late period of the reign of Catherine the Great.
He wears a dark-blue "kurtka" with red reverse (everyday dress-coat of officers and generals of cavalry) which was introduced to the Russian Army in 1788. Besides that he is decorated with insignia of two Russian awards - neck cross and breast star of the Order of St.Vladimir established in 1782 (it is the second class of this order) and chest cross of the Military Order of St.Georg of the 4th class.
Signed "F.Meys" (for artist Ferdinand de Meys (see below)) this miniature bears on verso erroneous title "C-te Michel Roumiantzeff /1750-1806". Meant was Count Michael Petrovich Rumiantsev (1751-1811); since 1774 a major general and later (since 1782) general-poruchik (lieutenant general).
Nevertheless his candidature has to be ruled out immediately - he never had the Order of St.Vladimir. Apparently the author of this attribution was influenced by a certain physiognomic similarity of this man (see our image nr.13 with his known portrait) to our general.
So, to identify our sitter we had (as a first step) to select among Russian cavalry generals of the corresponding period (1788 until the beginning of the reign of Paul I (1796)) all those who possessed the two aforementioned orders and no other.
After a profound search through documents of late 18th-early 19th century we came to a single possible candidate - cavalry Major General (from 2nd September 1793) Prince Alexei Petrovich Shcherbatov. He obtained his St.Georg of 4th class on 26th November 1788. The St.Vladimir of 2nd class he was awarded in 1793, simultaneously with promotion to major general (we are sure he ordered this portrait immediately after this event).
Until today no portraits of this man were known. Nevertheless the portrait of his younger (12 years his junior) brother, Prince Pavel Petrovich Sjcherbatov demonstrates the same facial characteristics (see our image nr.11).
Prince Alexei Petrovich Shcherbatov was born in 1750, as first-born child of Guards captain Prince Piotr Michailovich Shcherbatov and his wife Natalia Pavlovna Balk-Poleva.
His paternal grandfather, Major General Prince Michail Yurievich Shcherbatov was one of the most important courtiers and Governor of Archangelskaya Gubernia. His maternal grandfather, General Pavel Fedorovich balk-Polev was senator and chamberlain.
In 1759 Alexei Petrovich (he was then 9) was ascribed (as "junker") to the Foreign Office. As a teenager he studied at Moscow University and entered military service in 1765, in the rank of "poruchik" (1st lieutenant).
After the beginning of Russo-Turkish War he served in the staff of General-Poruchik Ostermann, then in the Army of Prince Dolgorukov. For distinction at the capture of fortress Arabat (Crimea) he was promoted to "second-major" in 1771; in 1772, for bravery at diverse combats - to lieutenant colonel, in 1786 - to colonel.
At the beginning of the next Russo-Turkish War (1787-1792) he served in Caucasus where as a commander of one of dragoon regiments he was (as said above) awarded the St.Georg of 4th class on 26th November 1788.
In 1790 he obtained the St.Vladimir of 3rd class, and in 1791 he was awarded "Golden sword with the inscription "For bravery"" (not shown on this portrait) and was promoted to "brigadier" (rank between colonel and major general).
For distinction in the Polish Campaign of 1792 he was (as said above) in September of 1793 awarded the St.Vladimir of 2nd class and raised to major general.
In 1796, Catherine II's son, Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich succeeded his late mother as Russian Emperor and fired Alexei Petrovich (amongst several other generals he was not pleased with) from military service.
The latter spent the next 15 years at his estate and died in 1811.
He outlived his wife Anna Ivanovna Naryshkina by one year with whom he had three children. For his extensive biography see our image nr.
The author of this miniature signed usually "de Meys" or "F.Meys" (so, for example his miniature in Moscow Collection of Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky (see our image nr.21)).
Ferdinand de Meys was probably born in the County Hennegau (area around contemporary Belgian-French border). From ca. 1783 until 1805 (with interruptions for trips to Paris and London) he lived in Russia working as a graphic artist and portrait miniaturist. He died not earlier as 1810. Miniatures by him are to see in various museums of Russia (Hermitage, Russian Museum, Tretyakov Gallery, etc.).
Our images nr.14-21 show several other works of this artist (also CLICK HERE).
Provenance: German antique trade
We are very grateful to well-known Russian phalerist Sergei Golovin for providing reference sources.
Creation Year: 1793
Measurements: UNFRAMED:7,0x7,0cm/2,8x2,8in FRAMED: 8,4x8,4cm/3,3x3,3in
Object Type: Framed miniature
Style: Portrait miniatures
Technique: watercolor on ivory (round)
Inscription: signed: F.Meys; erroneous legend on verso
Creator: Ferdinand de Meys
To see other works by this artist click on the name above!
Creator Dates: geb. County Hennegau-died after 1810
Nationality: Belgian / Russian
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