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Levitsky, Dmitry Grigorievich
Portrait of Catherine II the Legislator in the Temple Devoted to the Goddess of Justice Early 1780s

Early 1780s
oil on canvas
110 x 76,8

This work holds a special place in 18th century art. In allegorical form it captured the ideal of the age an image of the enlightened monarch. The artist portrays his heroine as a priestess of Themis, goddess of justice. The Sovereign is wearing a dress that resembles an antique toga, with a laurel wreath on her head instead of a crown. She is standing before a sculpture of Themis, under which an altar has been erected. Catherine is burning poppies - the symbol of sleep and peace. At her feet are the books of Law, which are protected by an Eagle that represents authority and statesmanship. In the distance the sea and a ship can be seen, attesting to the defence of commerce by the navy and a guarantee of the empires economic prosperity. The strict composition of the painting is symbolic of an ideally organized state, as imagined during the Age of Enlightenment. The abstract idea is captured by the artist using a magnificent scenic scale. The radiant figure of the Empress amidst the purple decoration of the temple creates a powerful, celebratory colour harmony that conveys glorification and triumph.

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