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Accompanies the Royal Collection exhibition

Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia (1672-1725) Signed and dated 1698

Oil on canvas | 241.7 x 145.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405645

Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace

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Kneller was born in Lubeck, studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam and by 1676 was working in England as a fashionable portrait painter. He painted seven British monarchs (Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, Anne, George I and George II), though his portraits of Charles II are no longer in the collection, and in 1715 was the first artist to be made a Baronet (the next was John Everett Millais in 1885). A set of portraits of naval heroes was given by George IV to the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich in 1824.

This portrait was painted in 1698 when, between 11 January and 21 April, Peter the Great was in London visiting William III. This was part of his famous 'Grand Embassy' of 1697-8 a diplomatic mission which turned into a fact-finding tour of the more advanced countries of Western Europe. The Tsar was especially interested in the ship-building of the Dutch and English, having begun the construction of a Russian Navy in 1695.

The Tsar is here shown wearing armour with an embroidered gold, ermine-lined cloak, his crown on a cushion in a niche; ships can be seen at manoeuvres through a window.