What a magnificent painting this is of Peter the Great! And what a handsome specimen the young Czar is!
In this work by the popular society painter, Godfrey Kneller, Peter looks every inch the charismatic ruler. With his rich, ermine-lined cloak, his brilliant, shining suit of armour, one graceful dancer's leg displayed prominently for our admiration, the classical Grecian curls framing the youthful, confident gaze of the attractive, twenty-five year old autocrat, he is the picture of vigorous majesty.
And we feel as though we are looking slightly up to the great man, which is of course, as it should be. But not too much, as this portrait was a present from Peter to King William III of England.
Behind him, in an alcove, rests Peter's great crown and through a window we see English ships emerging from stormy, war-like skies, touched by the sun.
The artist, whilst fulfilling traditional expectations of royal portraiture by surrounding Peter with formal attributes, has nevertheless captured the restless intelligence of this most unusual Czar.
Even though his subject is standing still, we get the feeling that he would like to bound out of the room as soon as possible. His right arm is bent at an impatient angle which anticipates a strong, unforgiving grip, his right hip is thrust forward as though Peter will any second now stride forcefully away to attend to matters involving urgent affairs of diplomacy. His keen, intelligent eyes look beyond us mere mortals, to a bright future.
Well, yes, possibly....in reality Peter was probably itching to get back to his rented house in Deptford, to be with the lads, have a good booze-up and trash the place over in true rock star manner.
In the meantime the traditional niceties of royal portraiture had to be respected.