In 1819 George Dawe arrived in Russia at the invitation of Emperor Alexander I to paint portraits of the heroes of the Napoleonic Wars for a War Gallery in the Winter Palace. In some cases these portraits could not be taken from the life, if the general had died in battle or from wounds received. In such cases the artist had to turn to existing images and this portrait of General Pyotr Bagration was taken from an earlier engraving and pencil sketches. The artist nonetheless managed to create a memorable image of one of the most glorious Russian military leaders. Pyotr Bagration (1765-1812) was a prince, descended from the Georgian ruling family, but without a powerful patron or money to buy a position, and thus he began his military career as an ordinary infantry soldier. It took him 11 years to reach the rank of Major, being promoted solely thanks to his military talents. He was famed for remaining cool-headed in the most dangerous situations and for always taking calm, measured decisions; at the same time he was renowned for great personal bravery. Both Count Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kutuzov, the most famous of all Russian military leaders, placed Bagration in the most dangerous situations, where they knew it would be necessary to fight against overwhelming odds. He made his name during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787 to 1791, and went on to fight in Suvorov's Italian and Swiss campaigns (1799), against Napoleon in 1805 and 1806-7, and in the Russo-Swedish War of 1808-9. But the peak of his glory was the Battle of Borodino on 2 6 August 1812, which determined the outcome of the war against Napoleon. The battle lasted 6 hours and Bagration received a fatal wound, dying three weeks later. In this portrait, Bagration is shown wearing a general's uniform decorated with a pattern of oak leaves embroidered in gold thread: this uniform was worn before going into battles which were to be decisive. The State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin.