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In August 1790, on her return from Karlsbad, Anna Charlotta Dorothea von Medem (1761–1821), from 1779 wife of Peter von Biron, Duke of Courland, stayed in Warsaw. Her charm and
personality made a great impression on Stanisław August and the whole of Warsaw society.

The sitter is holding up a bas relief medallion with Stanisław
August’s head in profile. The existence of such a relief has not been
confirmed; the arrangement of the hair differs from that in surviving
likenesses showing the king in profile (medals, coins, and bas reliefs).
Close analogies, however, can be found with the king’s likeness on the
dedicatory plaque on the plan of Hadrian’s Villa engraved by Francesco
Piranesi (1781). This likeness was based on the king’s image on the
Merentibus medal Piranesi received from Stanisław August, but slightly
changed, and the composition reversed. The idealized facial features and
the shape of the king’s coiffure on the medallion depicted in
Dorothea’s portrait are similar to those on Piranesi’s engraving.

The Duchess’ second portrait painted by Bacciarelli, in the National Museum in Poznań, Raczyński Foundation (inv. no. MNPFR721, former Mp 192) has the same dimensions and the pose is almost identical. It is
definitely based on the same sketch—changes have been made only to the garments and the arrangement of the hands. The string of pearls wrapped
around Dorothea’s left wrist in the Poznań version was replaced with a bracelet adorned with a miniature portrait of Stanisław August in the
Łazienki version. [See D. Juszczak, H. Małachowicz, The Stanisław August Collection of Paintings at the Royal Łazienki. Catalogue, Royal Łazienki Museum, Warsaw 2016, no. 10, pp. 77–79.]

Details

  • Title: Dorothea von Medem Biron
  • Creator: Marcello Bacciarelli
  • Date Created: 18th Century
  • Location Created: The Palace on the Isle - Salle de Salomon, ground floor
  • Physical Dimensions: h 99,0 w 79,2
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: oil
  • Art Genre: portrait
  • Art Form: Painting
  • Support: canvas

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