c.1792-93. Oil on canvas. 74 x 58.5 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Read Note.
Gagarina, Anna Petrovna (1777-1805), née Lopukhina, daughter of the senator P. V. Lopukhin and his first wife P. I. Levshina. She lost her mother early and was brought up by her stepmother, a woman of doubtful reputation. Being herself of very little education she did not take care of her stepdaughter’s education as well.
Anna Petrovna had an attractive appearance: big dark eyes and gorgeous black hair, high complexion and beautiful smile. But she was not a beauty to the tastes of strict critics as she was short and ungraceful. Her debut in 1797 coincided with festivities on account of Paul’s I coronation in Moscow. She had an immediate success and attracted the attention of the Emperor. A court party, headed by Kutaisov, tried to use Emperor’s interest in order to decrease the influence of the Empress Maria Fedorovna, on him. The Emperor was assured that the young Lopukhina was deeply in love with him and he invited the family to move to St. Petersburg, where they all were in favor of the Emperor. Anna Petrovna was appointed maid of honor, her stepmother became lady-in-waiting, and the father was appointed Procurator General, member of the State Council, and January 19, 1799 was made a Prince. The post of maid-of-honor obliged Anna Petrovna to be constantly in the retenue of the Empress and follow the tsar’s family in all their travels. Thanks to this the Emperor could see her daily. Unfortunately for the anti-Empress party, Anna Petrovna did not share the Emperor’s passion and being not very ambitious openly told him that she’d been in love with another man, Prince Pavel Gavrilovich Gagarin. Paul I, wishing to be a noble knight, called Prince Gagarin from Italy, where he, a major, was in the army of Suvorov. Then the Emperor promoted Gagarin to the rank of a general and ordered him to marry Anna Petrovna. Prince Gagarin subordinated, but evidently he did not share the feelings of his young wife, and his indifference made her turn to her regal admirer. Paul I was happy with such a sudden change. Princess Gagarina became his mistress and remained one to his death. The Emperor promoted her to the rank of lady-in-waiting and decorated her with the orders of St. Catherine of 1st degree, and St. John of Jerusalem.
The remarkable tact and modesty of the princess helped her to survive the court intrigues. She was born for quiet family life, which she did not get, and being the mistress of the most powerful man in Russia, she tried to create a kind of a family home with him – she avoided the court life and intrigues.
After accession to the throne of Alexander I, Prince P. G. Gagarin was appointed an envoy to the King of Sardinia, and Princess A. P. Gagarina followed her husband to Italy. She died there in childbirth April 25, 1805