• Dorothea von Medem Biron
  • Dorothea von Medem Biron
  • Dorothea von Medem Biron - 1
  • Dorothea von Medem Biron - 2

Dorothea von Medem Biron

Object type
99,0 x 79,2 cm
Acquisition date
The Palace on the Isle - Small Gallery, 1st floor
Marks and inscriptions
the inscription S. Augustus. Rex. Po... on the rim of the bas relief medallion
Place of Origin
Poland (Europe)
The Royal Łazienki
Museum number
ŁKr 122
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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.]

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