36: Upstairs and downstairs

Let us go back to Louis and his family in Russia. On his huge estates, a large number of people were concerned with the welfare of Louis’s family. The relationship between lordship and servants must have been a particularly cordial one. Well-known painters who made portraits of Louis and Stephanie, and after her death also of Leonilla, were simultaneously commissioned to depict the staff “downstairs”. This resulted in a unique album with drawings and watercolours of all servants.

Most of the drawings are by Jan X. Kaniewski, who also created Louis’s portrait in the Ancestral Gallery. Adolf Ladurner, the painter of the Petersburg ball scene we looked at earlier, painted an old footman and Jakob Suter depicted the nurse of the eldest son Peter. The album also shows the governesses and chambermaids, the dressmaker and cook, the courier, coachman, colonists, chamber servants, musicians and steward, and twice our dwarf Ossip. 

You will notice one drawing of Ossip: It shows him in a stately pose, as befits the saviour of the “Saviour of Saint Petersburg”. In this drawing, he stands before you like a tsar! No wonder, because George Dawe drew it, the painter of the Russian Emperor Alexander, whose portrait posing in the same manner you will see in the foyer next to the stairwell.