Dmitry Levitsky – Russian painter
Dmitry Levitsky was a Russian painter of Ukrainian origin, the master of ceremonial and chamber portraits, academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts.
Dmitry was born in 1735 in Kiev into the family of a hereditary priest G.K. Levitsky (real surname – Nos or Nosov), also known as the artist-engraver. His father taught him to paint. Since 1758 painter A.P. Antropov was his teacher. Together with father Levitsky took part in decorating of Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev (mid-1750s).
In 1758 Dmitry moved to St. Petersburg, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1762 he went with Antropov to Moscow, where he painted the Triumphal Gates erected to mark the coronation of Catherine II.
The paintings exhibited at the exposition of the Academy of Arts (1770) brought him fame. In the same 35-year-old Levitsky received the title of academician for the excellent portrait of A. Kokorinov. The portrait belonged to the typical eighteenth- century genre of the full-dress portrait, a genre which required splendor and solemnity.
In 1771-1788 he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts and was the head of the portrait class.
The peak of creativity was a series of portraits of girls from the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, painted in 1773-1776. The Institute was founded by Catherine II with the aim of bringing up “a new kind of woman”—well- bred and educated.
Count Artem Ivanovich Vorontsov ordered portraits of his family, to decorate the walls of his new home in St. Petersburg.
In 1783 Levitsky painted Portrait of Catherine II the Legislatress in which the content is put across by a system of allegories. A description of the portrait by Levitsky himself has been preserved, in which he says that Catherine is depicted in the temple of the goddess of Justice; by burning poppies at the altar she “sacrifices her own precious peace for the peace of all”; the order of St. Vladimir underlines her services to her country; the open sea visible in the distance, the Russian flag and Mercury’s warder on a shield, all represent protected trade.
Among his best works is a portrait of the famous French philosopher Denis Diderot (1773), who visited Russia on the invitation of Catherine II.
In the 1780s, the artist created a unique portrait gallery of figures of Russian culture.
His last work was painted in 1812.
Dmitry Levitsky died on April 4 (16), 1822 in St. Petersburg and was buried in the Smolensk Cemetery.