1760s. Oil on canvas. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Read Note.
Count Alexey Grigoryevich Bobrinsky (1762-1813) was an illegitimate son of the Empress Catherine II and her lover Count Grigory Orlov. Immediately after his birth, the child was taken to the household of Catherine’s valet, Vasily Shkurin. To conceal the process of the birth and to distract everybody’s attention from the empress, Shkurin set his own house on fire. When Peter III returned from the fire, Catherine had enough will power to meet him face to face. Twenty years later Catherine wrote to Bobrinsky, that being afraid for the lives of her elder son (future Emperor Pavel I) and her own, she had to conceal the birth of her second son from everyone.
The first years of his life Bobrinsky spent in the house of Shkurin under the name of prince Sitsky. In 1765, Catherine granted the child the big estate of Bobriki, which gave him his name.
Bobrinsky was educated in Leipzig, then in a military school in St.. Petersburg; he lived much abroad and irritated Catherine with his dissolute behavior, extravagance, unwillingness to study and constant scandals. At last she ordered him back to Russia. In 1796, Bobrinsky married baroness Anna Ungern-Sternberg. The marriage did him only good. He settled down and got interested in agriculture.
Pavel I sympathized with Bobrinsky and called him ‘brother’. In 1796, Pavel gave him the title of a count and made him general-major, but Bobrinsky preferred the quiet life of a private citizen and resigned in 1798. Till his death he was busy with his own estates and died in 1813 in Bobriki. See also his portrait by Christineck