The artist’s imagination was captured by the legendary story of an adventuress known in Russian history as Yelizaveta Tarakanova (circa 1745-1775). She pretended to be the daughter of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna from her secret marriage to A. G. Razumovsky. By the order of Catherine II, Count A.G. Orlov lured Tarakanova out of Italy and brought her to Saint Petersburg where she was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress and died of tuberculosis. The official version of Princess Tarakova’s story was published in the Encyclopedic Dictionary. There is also a legend that Tarakanova died during the great flood of 1777 in her cell. A certain part of the public took Flavitsky’s painting as a criticism of tsarist despotism. Alexander II made it be noted that its subject matter was “taken from a novel and has no historic foundation”.
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