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 Christina Robertson  (1796 - 1854)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: paintings

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
EMPRESS ALEXANDRA FEDOROVNA
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Christie's London, King Street:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Little is known about Christina Robertson’s early life. She was born in Fife, Scotland, and it is believed that she trained with her uncle, George Sanders, a successful miniaturist. In 1823 she married James Robertson, also a painter, and together they relocated to London from where she sent pictures to exhibitions at the Royal Academies in London and Edinburgh regularly. During this time interest in her work increased, and among her distinguished patrons were the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, the Countess of Sheffield, Lord Powerscourt and Viscountess Barrington. After 1830 her circle of patrons had widened to include more international names such as Rothschild, Monte Bello, Zuvadovsky and Pototski, which must have influenced her decision to travel to St Petersburg in 1839, where she remained until 1841, returning again between 1849 until her death in 1854. Her connections on arrival must have been so significant that her first sitters included members of Tzar Nicholas I’s family, and the records of the Ministry of the Imperial Court state that in 1840 the artist had her own room in the Palace of Peterhof to use as a studio. In 1841 portraits of the Empress and her three daughters were included in an exhibition at the Imperial Academy in St Petersburg, and Count Buturlin commented later in his memoirs that among the most popular paintings exhibited that year were those by the ‘English lady Mrs Robertson, who has been stealing all commissions away from her colleagues. It became extremely fashionably among the nobility of Petersburg for two of three years to be painted by this foreign artist, who charged fabulous prices for her portraits’ (Russian Archives, Moscow, 1901, Book 3, p. 451, quoted in E. Renne, ‘A British Portraitist in Imperial Russia: Christina Robertson and the court of Nicholas I’, Apollo, September 1995, p. 45). She is buried in St Petersburg in the Volkhov Lutheran cemetery, and the largest collection of her work remains in the Hermitage Museum. Robertson painted a number of portraits of the Empress, each in different settings, and with her sitter wearing a variety of dress. The first known portrait must have been executed before 1846 as it was published as an engraving that year. The present portrait illustrates Robertson’s skill in carefully rendering different textures of fabric from the delicate lace framing the sitter’s face to the velvet robe trimmed with fur. The picturesque composition shows the influences that Robertson drew from books of etchings by Rigaud and Reynolds that she borrowed from the Hermitage Library. Other examples of Robertson’s portraits of the Empress can be found in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; the Museum of Arts, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the Pavlovsk Palace Museum near St Petersburg; and the Alupka Palace Museum, Crimea.

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