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Catherine The Great and her great art collection

The apotheosis of her allegiance to art, however, came when her passion merged with politics. Two years after she seized the throne from her estranged husband, she began in earnest on an escapade of acquiring art. A collection with tours de force from would be a token of Russia as a land of artistic inclinations and cultivated taste, and the financial extravagance to procure such prestigious pieces would display the kingdom’s wealth. It would qualify her as an enlightened despot. 

She plunged into the art war that had erupted in Europe in the 18th century and she went about it like no rookie. Scrupulous in her choices, she perused the catalogues, bargained aggressively, and never shied away from seeking suggestions. She once wrote to German Philosophe Baron von Grimm, one of her main art advisors and who had asked her asked her how she had developed her eye. She reverted:

“Read the descriptions of the paintings which the antique dealers are selling. By constantly studying catalogues of the paintings which I purchase, I have learned to . . . see.”

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