Description

The date and engraver of this print showing the Neva River in St Petersburg are currently unknown. It is after a now-lost painting by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (1734–-81) which was exhibited in Paris at the Salon of 1765. Denis Diderot described the painting in his Salon criticism, giving it a mixed review:

It is taken from the palace occupied by our ambassador, M. de l'Hopital. It shows The Island of St. Basil, the Port, the Customs, the Senate, the College of Justice, the Fortress and the Cathedral. The little French figures placed at the front, are the ambassador and the people of his suite. They are spiritual. The cart where we see a woman lying, traveling in the manner of the country no doubt, is very good. But I do not have the courage to praise this piece, like the Port of Dieppe of Vernet. It is dark, sad, without sky, without effect of light, without effect at all.[1]

Though the view includes many important buildings and landmarks, as listed by Diderot, the focus is very much on the bustling embankment and the life of the city. This is in line with the greater part of Le Prince’s work, whose scenes of Russian life were immensely popular in Western Europe.




[1] Denis Diderot, “141. Vue d’une partie de Pétersbourg”, in Jean Seznec and Jean Adhe╠ümar ed., Salons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957) p.292.

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