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Ivan Nikitin – Russian portrait painter

Ivan Nikitin. Portrait of Peter I, 1717

Ivan Nikitin. Portrait of Peter I, 1717

Ivan Nikitin (circa 1690 – 1742) was a Russian painter, portraitist, the founder of the Russian school of portrait of the XVIII century. Nikitin’s life is poorly documented.
Ivan was the son of priest Nikita Nikitin, who served in Izmailovo, brother of priest Herodion Nikitin later Archpriest at Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin, and the painter Roman Nikitin. The boy received a good education: he could read and write Latin, knew grammar and learnt mathematics, and at one time even taught arithmetic and drawing at the artillery school in Moscow. Ivan studied in Moscow, apparently, in the armory, possibly under the guidance of Dutchman Adriaan Schoonbeeck in the engraving workshop.
In 1711, Nikitin was transferred to St. Petersburg. He painted portraits. In 1716-1720 Ivan and his brother Roman were sent to study abroad. He was in Italy, in Venice and Florence. Before travelling abroad Nikitin painted several portraits, including those of Natalia Alexeyevna, Peter the Great’s favorite sister and of the Cossack in a red kaftan.

Thanks to his relatives who served in the court of the church, Nikitin quickly took a strong position at the court of Peter I. Ivan became the favorite artist of Peter I and was an example of patriotic pride of the Russian tsar to foreigners.
Portrait of the daughter of Peter I, Elizabeth (1709-1761), the future empress (since 1741) was the earliest known painting.
At the beginning of 1720 the Nikitin brothers returned to St. Petersburg.
On January 28, 1725 Nikitin painted Peter for the last time (Peter I on his deathbed).
In 1732, Nikitin and his brother Roman were arrested by the Secret Office and spent five years in the Peter and Paul Fortress. Five years later they were exiled to Tobolsk. In 1741, after the death of Anna Ivanovna, he was allowed to return to St. Petersburg. But the artist died on his way.

Portrait of a crown princess Anna Petrovna, no later than 1716

Portrait of a crown princess Anna Petrovna, no later than 1716

Portrait of Empress Catherine I, 1717

Portrait of Empress Catherine I, 1717

Ivan Nikitin – Russian portrait painter