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German School, 18th century

Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst (1712-1760) Inscribed 1736

Oil on canvas | 38.6 x 31.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 406450

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  • Princess Johanna Elizabeth was the daughter of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp; she was brought up at Wolfenbüttel Castle by her godfather, the Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1727, aged fifteen, she married Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst (1690-1747).

    Prince Christian’s military career meant the couple moved to Stettin in Pomeranian (now Szczecin, Poland), which Johanna found dull compared to the lively court at Brunswick. She travelled to Russia in order to encourage the marriage of her daughter, Sophie, to the heir to the Russian throne; the couple married in 1745 and took the names by which they are better known - Peter III (1728-1762) and Catherine II ‘the Great’ (1729-96). After Prince’s Christian’s death in 1747, Johanna Elizabeth acted as regent for her son, Frederick Augustus (1734-93), until his majority in 1752. In 1758 Anhalt-Zerbst was invaded by the Prussians and ceased to exist. Princess Johanna spent the rest of her life in exile in Paris.

    This portrait shows the sitter aged 24, dressed in a gold brocade dress trimmed with silver and an ermine-lined mantle; a crown on a table to the left. A portrait of the sitter, attributed to Antoine Pesne, c. 1746 is in the Hermitage, Russia.


    Probably acquired by George IV; recorded in the Store at Carlton House in 1816 (no 311) and 1819 (no 459, valued at 1 guinea)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    38.6 x 31.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    54.1 x 46.1 x 6.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, Consort of Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, mother of Catherine II, Empress of Russia

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