c.1807-1812. Oil on canvas. 67 x 56. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Read Note.
Count Alexander Ivanovich Osterman-Tolstoy (1770-1857) son of the Lieutenant-General Ivan Matveevich Tolstoy (1746-1808) and his wife Agrafena Ilyinichna, nee Bibikova. He began his military service during the Turkish-Russian war of 1787-1791. In 1796 his two childless grandfathers, Fedor and Ivan Ostermans, brothers of his immediate grandmother, gave him their family name, the title of count and big fortune. Count Osterman-Tolstoy did not leave the military service. In 1798 he was already major-general, participated in all major battles in the Napoleonic wars in 1805-1814; during 1812-1814 commanded a corps, and distinguished himself in the battle at Kulm 17-18 August 1813. His corps defended the gorges in the mountains of Bohemia, and captured marshal Vandamme. During the battle the count lost his left hand, as Emperor Alexander I put it, “by sacrificing his hand he bought us victory”. Count Osterman-Tolstoy remained in service until 1826, after Alexander's I death he retired and started traveling around Europe and the Middle East. In 1831, he was a military consultant of Ibrahim-pasha in Egypt and participated in actions against the Turks.
He never returned to Russia and shared his time between Italy and Switzerland.
He loved practical jokes and mystifications. According to his contemporaries he was “a remarkable and original person, distinguished with frankness and generosity. Even among his famous contemporaries he could be singled out. Fearlessness, courage, and endurance in battle were his characteristics as a military officer.”
Count Osterman-Tolstoy was married to Princess Elisabeth Alexeevna Golitsina (1779-1853) from 1799; they had no children. He had foreign mistresses and a lot of illegitimate children. There is an engraving, published in Pisa in 1827, on which Count Osterman-Tolstoy is depicted sitting beside a pram with a sleeping baby and two older children playing near by; the inscription says, ‘Je me flatte que c’est les derniers faries (sic). A 55 ans il est temps de faire la clôture.’ (I flatter myself with the thought that it’s my last extravagancy. At the age of 55 one must stop). Count Osterman-Tolstoy died in Switzerland in 1857.
See: Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. Portrait of Count A. I. Osterman-Tolstoy.
French Painting. XIX century. by V. Berezina. Moscow. Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo. 1980. (in Russian)
Famous Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries. St. Petersburg. 1996.
Encyclopedia of Famous Russians. Moscow. 2000.