Esimene teadaolev kujutis Tartu Ülikoolile kuulunud Gerhard von Kügelgeni Aleksander I portreest. The first Known Image of the University of Tartu's Portrait of Alexander I by Gerhard von Kügelgen


  • Kristiina Tiideberg



The article focuses on the fate of the portrait of Alexander I of Russia painted by the renowned German artist Gerhard von Kügelgen (1772–1820), which used to belong to the University of Tartu, and introduces what is thought to be the first photograph of this portrait. The collections of the University of Tartu include six highly valuable portraits by Kügelgen. In the 1820s, the University of Tartu Art Museum acquired—with the help of the Museum’s Director Professor Karl Morgenstern—the portraits of the so-called three Weimar classics: J. W. von Goethe (1808–1809), Chr. M. Wieland (1808–1809) and J. G. von Herder (1809) with the later addition of the portraits of Morgenstern himself (1808–1809) and the archaeologist K. A. Böttiger from Morgenstern’s private collection. In 2016, it also managed to obtain the portrait of the first Rector of the reopened University Georg Friedrich Parrot. No known images survive of the allegorical portrait of Emperor Alexander I of Russia, which used to hang in the University’s Assembly Hall. A detailed description of the portrait was published with Karl Morgenstern’s speech dedicated to the emperor in 1827 (Karl Morgenstern. Vom Verdienste: Zum Gedächtniss Alexanders des Ersten. Mitau, Hamburg, 1827): a full-length figure of Alexander I as an Ancient Roman priest emptying the contents of a golden bowl into a sacrificial tripod. Behind him stood the statue of Athena pointing at a tablet with the word ‘Humanitati’ on it. The portrait was ordered through Rector Parrot for the University’s Assembly Hall and was finished already in 1804. The portrait was first displayed in the rector’s apartment, but was later moved to the Assembly Hall where it remained from 1809 to 1826. The portrait’s frame was designed by the University architect Johann Wilhelm Krause. In 1826, Kügelgen’s painting in the Assembly Hall was replaced by a new portrait of Alexander I by the artist Georg Dawe. Kügelgen’s portrait was handed over to the Art Museum and it remained in the University’s Main Building. An article published in the Riga Almanac in 1881 (Rigascher Almanach für 1882) states that the portrait was put on display in the University Library. The author remembered this article when she noticed a large portrait of the emperor (Figure 5) in a photograph of the interior of the University Library. The photo depicts what is now the White Hall of the University of Tartu Museum in 1910 with artworks that can be found in the University’s collections even today: Kügelgen’s portraits of the
Weimar classics and plaster sculptures of the muses. At the centre of the photograph there is a full-length portrait of an emperor of Russia, which is not part of the University’s collections today. A contemporary library inventory book features only one full-length portrait of a Russian emperor: Portrait of Alexander I (Kaiser Alexander’s I Bild in Lebensgrösse in Goldrahmen nebst Mahagony-Gestell). The quality of the photograph is poor, but the figure depicted in it bears great
resemblance to Karl Morgernstern’s description. The photo depicts a full-length figure wearing a cape and light-coloured clothing. The pose, the position of the hands (the left hand on the hip and the right one extended), the clothing and its colour match, too, and the fastening of the cape is on the correct shoulder. The painting depicts the face of a fair-haired young beardless man. On the right-hand side there is also a faint image of a pillar. Even though the photograph cannot be    compared to another image and its description does not include any references to the artworks depicted on it, one can safely say that it features Kügelgen’s portrait of Alexander I, which used to belong to the University of Tartu. The University’s art collections were evacuated to Voronezh in Russia in 1915 due to World War I. Some of these were returned, but a large part of them still remain in Voronezh even today. The fate of these collections is recorded in a catalogue published in 2006 (Dorpat-Yuryev-Tartu and Voronezh: the Fate of the University Collection: Catalogue I. By Anu Hindikainen, Inge Kukk, Yelena Pchenitsyna and Anatoli Vilkov. University of Tartu, 2006). The catalogue does not mention Kügelgen’s portrait of Alexander I, yet an enquiry made to the Kramskoy Museum of Fine Arts in Voronezh confirmed that Kügelgen’s painting was evacuated to Voronezh but disappeared from the museum’s collection during World War II. The painting is thought to have perished. Thus, we have a new piece of information regarding the fate of the University collections in Voronezh.


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