Kotzebue Alexander von,
Oil on canvas
49 х 58
State Russian Museum
Smaller copy-version of Peter the Great Saving Drowning People in the Storm on Lake Ladoga by Charles de Steuben (1812; Museum of Fine Arts, Amiens)
Quite a number of myths have grown up about the death of Peter the Great, including the fateful chill that he caught when saving some drowning fishermen, and also the suggestion of a poisoning organised by some of his closest associates. In his dynamic picture, which was copied by Alexander von Kotzebue, Charles de Steuben depicted the first of these stories, one that was truly worthy of the great monarch’s heroic reputation. In its time de Steuben’s painting greatly impressed the public, and it was acquired by Napoleon Bonaparte. Louis XVIII ordered a Gobelin to be made of it which was then sent as a gift to Emperor Alexander I (it is now in the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve).
Kotzebue, Alexander von
1815, Königsberg – 1889, Munich
Painter, battle painter. Son of German playwright August von Kotzebue, brother of famous explorer Otto von Kotzebue (1788–1846), and eminent military leader and statesman Paul von Kotzebue (1801–1884). Studied at the Second Petersburg Cadet Corps, served as an officer in the Life Guards Lithuanian Regiment. Audited Alexander Sauerweid’s battle class at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1837–1844). By imperial decree, was sent abroad on an assignment trip (1847) to study the theatre of military operations of the Seven Year’s War and produce the commissioned paintings. Awarded the title of academician without creating a painting specifically for this honour (1850). Went to Italy (1852) to depict commissioned scenes from Alexander Suvorov’s Swiss and Italian expeditions. In 1858, exhibited three paintings related to this subject at the Imperial Academy of Art: Russians Crossing Over the Devil’s Bridgein Switzerland in 1799, Battle of Novi in 1799 and Battle in the Mutten Valley in 1799. Professor of battle painting, member of the Munich Academy of Arts (1858). Commissioned by the Emperor to execute six paintings related to the conquest of the Baltics by Peter the Great. Worked on paintings on the subject of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.