Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya
Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya, nee Princess Beloselsky, was a literary salon hostess, writer, poet, singer and composer, a prominent figure of Russian cultural life of the first half XIX century. She was also an opera singer who performed in Paris and London.
Zinaida was born on December 14, 1792 in Dresden into the family of Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselsky-Belozersky and Varvara Yakovlevna Tatisheva. Her father was called Moscow Apollo as he was very handsome. He was also intelligent and educated and he was friends with Mozart and Voltaire.
Zinaida was lady-in-waiting of Queen Louise of Prussia in 1808 and she was close to Emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Zinaida married Alexander’s aide-de-camp, Prince Nikita Volkonsky, in 1810. Soon Zinaida gave birth to a baby. They say that that boy’s father was Emperor Alexander the First. To tell the truth the main mistress of the Emperor was Maria Antonovna Naryshkina.
In 1825 she became a member of the Moscow Society of Russian History and Antiquities and donated her library to the Moscow Society of Naturalists.
Zinaida’s salon was visited by many prominent writers – Pushkin, Baratynsky, Mickiewicz, Venevitinov, Devitte, who devoted their poems to her. She also wrote in Russian, French and Italian. Alexander Pushkin called her “The queen of music and beauty”.
At the end of 1826 Count Miniato Ricci – Italian aristocrat, and his wife – Russian girl Ekaterina Lunina visited salon of Volkonskaya. As a result of that meeting Lunin was left without a husband and Volkonskaya married Ricci.
After Alexander I’s death, her brother-in-law Sergey Volkonsky led the Decembrist Revolt against his successor Nicholas. The Decembrists were exiled to Siberia, and their wives decided to follow them.
Zinaida moved to Rome in 1829. Among her lodgings in Rome were Palazzo Poli, Villa Wolkonsky, and a smaller house in the Via degli Avignonesi. Nikolai Gogol wrote much of Dead Souls at her villa.
Princess Volkonskaya died of pneumonia on January 24 (February 5), 1862 and was buried in Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.