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  Thursday, August 11, 2022
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The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg will put on public display a new acquisition
On the last day of the year, December 31, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg will put on public display a new acquisition, a miniature portrait of Napoleon. It was made by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, a prominent miniature painter, water-colorist and lithographer, he was tutored by the famous Jean-Louis David and was the court painter of Napoleon. The miniature with Isabey's signature is dated 1808 and the inscription on the other side of the bronze frame says, "From the snuffbox presented by Emperor Napoleon I to Mikhail Speransky in Erfurt in 1808." It is an acknowledged fact that Napoleon highly respected Speransky, but this attention cost the Russian minister dearly: He was accused of spying for France and exiled in 1812. Suffering from privations in the exile, Speransky sold diamonds from the snuffbox but kept the box. Much later, his descendants sold it to an antique shop in New York. Prominent art patron Yevgeny Satanovsky bought it there and presented it to the Hermitage. The miniature will be on display in the Picket Hall of the Winter Palace on December 31. Mikhail Speransky (1772-1839) is a statesman and lawyer who initiated constitutional reforms. Acting on the instructions of Emperor Alexander I, he compiled a plan of state reforms in 1809, in which he recommended reforming autocracy into a constitutional monarchy as a way of preventing a revolution in Russia. This entailed the election of certain officials and their responsibility to the people, the granting of political rights to the middle class, and the creation of a legislative body, the elected State Duma as the supreme consultative agency under the Emperor. Speransky did not implement his ideas, which provoked a sharp discontent of the nobility. They launched an unprecedented defamation campaign against him, finally accusing him of high treason and spying for France. Alexander I decided to demote Speransky from the post of State Secretary and sent him into exile to Nizhny Novgorod and subsequently to Perm.
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