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The emperor Paul, born October 1, 1754, ascended the throne on the 12th of December, 1796. What I have related touching Catherine's funeral is sufficient proof that the new Emperor did not share the national sorrow; it is well known, besides, that he bestowed the order of St. Andrew upon Nicholas Zuboff, who brought him the news of his mother's death. Paul was clever, well-informed and energetic, but his whims bordered on insanity. In this unhappy Prince generous emotions were often followed by outbreaks of ferocity; approval or anger, favour or resentment, were with him altogether a matter of caprice.

One night I was at a court ball; every one except the Emperor was masked, both men and women wearing black dominos. One of the doorways between two rooms became crowded, and a young man in haste to pass elbowed a woman, who began to scream. Paul at once turned to one of his adjutants, saying, "Take that gentleman to the fortress, and come back to tell me that he is safe under lock and key." The adjutant soon came back to tell the Emperor that he had executed his order; "but," he went on, "Your Majesty must know that the young man is very short-sighted. Here is the proof." And he produced the prisoner's eye-glasses, which he had brought with him. Paul, after trying the eye-glasses, was convinced, and said with feeling: "Go for him quickly and take him to his parents; I shall not go to bed until you have come back with the information that he is at home again."

The least infraction of Paul's commands was punished with exile to Siberia, or at least with imprisonment, so that, unable to foresee how far lunacy and arbitrariness combined would go, one lived in a state of perpetual fear. It soon came to one's not daring to invite company to one's house. If one would see a few friends, one was very careful to close the shutters, and when a ball was given it was agreed that the carriages should be sent home so as to attract less attention. Everybody's words and actions were watched to such an extent that I heard it said there was no social circle without a spy. Allusion to the Emperor was usually abstained from altogether. I remember how one day, joining a very small gathering, a lady who did not know me and who had just ventured upon this subject, cut her words short when she saw me coming into the room. Countess Golovin was obliged to tell her that she might continue. "You may speak without fear," she said; "it is Mme. Lebrun." All this seemed extremely burdensome after living under Catherine, who allowed every one to enjoy entire liberty without, however, using the word.

It would take a long time to recount to what futilities Paul practised his tyranny. He ordered, for instance, that every one should make obeisance to his palace, even when he was absent. He forebade the wearing of round hats, which he looked upon as a symbol of Jacobinism. The police knocked off with their sticks all the round hats they saw, to the great annoyance of people whose ignorance of the regulation exposed them to being thus unhatted. On the other hand, every one was obliged to wear powder. At the time when this regulation was made I was painting young Prince Bariatinski's portrait, and he had acceded to my request that he come without powder. One day he arrived pale as death. "What is the matter with you?" I asked him. "I have just met the Emperor," he replied, all a-tremble, "I barely had time to hide in a doorway, but I am terribly afraid that he recognised me." There was nothing surprising in Prince Bariatinski's fright. All classes were likewise affected, for no inhabitant of St. Petersburg was sure one night that he would sleep in his bed the next.

For my part, I avow that in the reign of Paul I experienced the greatest fear of all my life. I had gone to Pergola to spend the day, and had with me M. de Rivière, my coachman, and Peter, my faithful Russian servant. While M. de Rivière was walking about with his gun to shoot birds or rabbits – to which, by the way, he never did great harm – I remained on the shore of the lake. All of a sudden I noticed the fire that had been lit to cook our dinner, communicate itself to the trees and spread with great rapidity. The trees were close together, and Pergola was close to St. Petersburg! I began to scream dreadfully, calling upon M. de Rivière, and, aided by fear, the four of us succeeded in extinguishing the blaze, though not without severely burning our hands. But we thought of the Emperor, of Siberia, and it may well be imagined how this filled us with zeal!

I can only explain the terror that Paul inspired me with from the fact that it was universal, since I must admit that toward myself he was never anything but civil and considerate. When I saw him for the first time at St. Petersburg he was amiable enough to remember that I had been presented to him in Paris on the occasion of his visit there. I was very young then, and so many years had since gone by that I had forgotten the incident; but princes as a rule are gifted with a memory for faces and names. Among the various queer ordinances of his reign, one, to which obedience was very troublesome, compelled both men and women to alight from their carriages whenever the Emperor drove by. Now, I must add that Paul was to be met with very frequently in the streets of St. Petersburg, as he travelled them perpetually, sometimes on horseback with but slim attendance, and sometimes in a sledge without an escort, without any sign by which he might have been recognised. You were nevertheless obliged to obey his command, under pain of incurring his severest displeasure, and it will be agreed that it was cruel to have to jump out into the snow and stand there, however extreme the cold. One day when I was out driving, my coachman not having observed his approach, I scarcely had time to exclaim: "Stop! it is the Emperor!" But, as my door was opened and I was about to get out, the Emperor himself descended from his sledge and hastened to stop me, saying in the most gracious manner that his order did not concern foreign ladies, especially Mme. Lebrun.

The reason why even Paul's most favourable whims were not reassuring for the future was that no man was ever more changeable in his tastes and affections. At the beginning of his reign, for instance, he loathed Bonaparte. Later on he conceived such a great tenderness for him that a portrait of the French hero was kept in his sanctuary and he exhibited it to every one. Neither his dislike nor his favour was lasting. Count Strogonoff, I believe, is the only person he always loved and esteemed. He was not known to have favourites among the gentlemen of the court, but was very fond of a French actor called Frogères, who was not without talent and rather clever. Frogères went into the Emperor's study at all hours unannounced; they were often seen walking together in the gardens arm in arm, chatting on the subject of French literature, for which Paul had a strong fancy, particularly our drama. This actor was often invited to the small court gatherings, and as he was highly gifted in the art of joking, he made the greatest lords the object of jokes, which amused the Emperor very much, but which probably were very slightly amusing to those at whose expense they were made. The Grand Dukes themselves were not safe from Frogères's naughty pleasantries; in fact, after the death of Paul, he did not venture to appear at the palace. The Emperor Alexander, walking alone one day in the streets of Moscow, met him and called to him. "Frogères, why have you not been to see me?" the Emperor asked him with affable air. "Sire," replied Frogères, freed from his fears, "I did not know Your Majesty's address." The Emperor laughed a great deal over this piece of nonsense, and munificently paid the French actor some arrears in salary which the poor man had up till then not dared to claim.

After dealing for a long time with Paul, it was indeed natural that Frogères should dread the resentment of a sovereign, for Paul was so vindictive that the greatest share of his wrongdoings was attributable to his hatred for the Russian nobility, against whom he had had a grievance during Catherine's lifetime. In this hatred he confused the innocent with the guilty, detesting all the great nobles and taking a delight in humbling any of them he did not exile. To foreigners, on the other hand, and especially to the French, he showed remarkable kindness, and I must here affirm that he always received and treated well all travellers and refugees coming from France. Of these last some were even generously assisted by him. I will mention as an instance the Count d'Autichamp, who, finding himself in St. Petersburg without any resources whatever, had hit upon the idea of making a very pretty elastic shoe. I bought a pair, which the same evening I showed to several women of the court at Princess Dolgoruki's. They were pronounced charming, and this, together with the sympathy inspired by the refugee, resulted in immediate orders for a large number of pairs. The little shoe eventually came under the notice of the Emperor, who, as soon as he learned the name of the workman, sent for him and gave him a fine position. Unfortunately, it was a confidential post, and the Russians were so offended that Paul could not leave the Count d'Autichamp in it for long. But he made amends in such a way as to secure him against poverty. Several facts of this kind, I confess, made me more indulgent toward the Emperor than the Russians were, whose peace was incessantly disturbed through the extravagant caprices of an omnipotent madman. It would be difficult to convey an idea of the fears, the discontent and the secret murmurings of his court, that I had formerly seen so placid and happy. It may be said with truth that as long as Paul's reign lasted terror was the order of the day. As one cannot torment one's fellowmen without being tormented oneself, Paul was far from leading an enviable life. He had a fixed idea that he would die by steel or by poison, and this conviction explains much of his queer conduct. While going about the streets of St. Petersburg alone at all hours of the day and night, he took the precaution to have his broth made in his room, and the rest of his cooking was likewise done in the secrecy of his apartment. The whole was superintended by his faithful Kutaisoff, a confidential valet who had been to Paris with him and was in constant attendance upon him. This Kutaisoff had entertained an unlimited devotion for the Emperor, and nothing could ever change it.

Paul was exceedingly ugly. A flat nose, and a very large mouth furnished with very long teeth, made him look like a death's head. His eyes were more than vivacious, though they often had a soft expression. He was neither stout nor lean, neither tall nor short, and although his whole person was not wanting in a sort of elegance, it must be admitted that his face suggested opportunity for caricature. Indeed, a number were made, in spite of the danger that such an amusement threatened. One of them represented him holding a paper in each hand. On one was written "order," on the other "counter-order," and on his forehead "disorder." At the mere mention of this caricature I still feel a little shiver; for it must be understood that there were lives in jeopardy, in which the artists' and the purchasers' were included.

But all I have said did not hinder St. Petersburg from being a pleasant as well as profitable place of sojourn for a painter. The Emperor Paul loved and patronised the arts. A great admirer of French literature, he munificently subsidised the actors to whom he owed the pleasure of seeing our dramatic masterpieces performed.

Doyen, my father's friend and the historical painter I have already mentioned, was distinguished by Paul as he had been by Catherine II. Though very old at the time, Doyen, who had imposed a simple and frugal manner of living upon himself, had accepted but a portion of the Empress's generous offers. The Emperor continued in the path of Catherine, and ordered a ceiling for the new palace of St. Michael, as yet unfurnished. The room where Doyen was working was close to the Hermitage. Paul and all the court passed through it on their way to mass, and the Emperor rarely returned without stopping to chat for more or less time with the painter in quite amiable fashion. I am hereby reminded how, one day, one of the Emperor's gentlemen-in-waiting stepped up to Doyen and said: "Permit me, sir, to make a slight observation. You are painting the hours dancing round the chariot of the sun. I see one there, in the distance, smaller than the rest; the hours, however, are all exactly alike." "Sir," replied Doyen with cool self-possession, "you are perfectly right, but what you point out is only a half-hour." The first speaker nodded in assent, and went off greatly pleased with himself. I must not forget to record that the Emperor, wishing to pay the price of painting the ceiling before it was finished, sent to Doyen a bank-note for a large sum – how much I do not now remember. But the bank-note was enclosed in a wrapper, upon which Paul had written with his own hand, "Here is something to buy colours with; as for oil, there is a lot left in the lamp."

If my father's old friend was pleased with his life at St. Petersburg, I was none the less pleased with mine. I worked without relaxing from morning till evening. Only on Sundays I lost two hours, which I was obliged to grant people wishing to see my studio, and among these there were frequently grand dukes and grand duchesses. Besides the pictures I have already spoken of, and an endless succession of portraits, I had sent to Paris for my large portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette, one in which I had painted her in a blue velvet dress, and the general interest it provoked yielded me the sweetest delight. The Prince de Condé, then at St. Petersburg, on coming to see it, uttered not a word, but burst into tears.

In respect of social amenity St. Petersburg left nothing to be desired. One might have believed oneself at Paris, so many French were there at the fashionable gatherings. It was thus that I saw the Duke Richelieu and the Count de Langeron again. They were really not residents, the first being Governor of Odessa and the other always travelling on military inspections, but it was different with a host of other countrymen of mine. For instance, I made acquaintance with the amiable and dear good Countess Ducrest de Villeneuve. Not only was this young woman very pretty and very well built, but she had a special charm coming from her great goodness of heart. I often saw her at St. Petersburg, as well as at Moscow, by which I am reminded that one day, when I went to dine with her, an instance occurred of a kind not rare in Russia, but which frightened me excessively. M. Ducrest de Villeneuve came for me in a sledge, and it was so cold that my forehead was quite frozen. I exclaimed in terror, "I shall be able to think no more!" M. de Villeneuve hurried me into a shop, where my forehead was rubbed with snow, and this remedy, employed by the Russians in all similar cases; soon banished the cause of my despair.

I did not neglect the natives who treated me so well, for my French friends and my relations with Russian families were constantly increasing. Besides the numerous persons I have already mentioned, I often saw M. Dimidoff, the richest private gentleman in Russia. His father had left him a heritage of richly productive iron and quicksilver mines, and the enormous sales he made to the government kept on enlarging his fortune. His immense wealth was the cause of his obtaining in marriage Mlle. Strogonoff, a member of one of the most aristocratic and oldest families of Russia. Their union was very happy. They left only two sons, one of whom lives in Paris most of the time, and who, like his father, has a great love for pictures.

The Emperor ordered me to make a portrait of his wife. I represented her standing, wearing a court dress, and a diamond crown on her head. I do not like painting diamonds; the brush cannot render their brilliancy. Nevertheless, in taking for a background a large crimson velvet curtain, I succeeded in making the crown shine as much as possible. When I sent for the picture to finish the details at home, the Empress wanted to lend me the court dress and all the jewels belonging to it, but they were so valuable that I declined to accept the trust, which would have given me too much anxiety. I preferred to finish my painting at the palace, whither I had the picture taken back. The Empress Maria was a very handsome woman; her plumpness kept her fresh. She had a tall figure, full of dignity, and magnificent fair hair. I recollect having seen her at a great ball with her beautiful locks falling at each side of her shoulders and a diamond tiara on the top of her head. This tall and handsome woman walked majestically next to Paul, on his arm, and a striking contrast was thus presented. To all her loveliness was added a sweet character. The Empress Maria was truly the woman of the Gospel; her virtues were so universally known that she perhaps affords the only example of a woman never attacked by slander. I confess I was proud to find myself honoured with her favour, and that I set great store by the good-will she showed me on all occasions.

Our sittings took place immediately after the court dinner, so that the Emperor and his two sons, Alexander and Constantine, were habitually present. These august spectators did not annoy me in the least, especially as the Emperor, who alone could have made me feel any diffidence, was exceedingly polite to me. One day, when coffee was being served, as I was already at my easel, he brought me a cup himself, and then waited until I had drunk the coffee to take back the cup and put it away. Another time, it is true, he made me witness a rather comical scene. I was having a screen put behind the Empress in order to obtain a quiet background. In this moment of intermission Paul began cutting up a thousand antics, exactly like a monkey, scratching the screen and pretending to climb up it. Alexander and Constantine seemed pained at their father's grotesque behaviour before a stranger, and I myself felt sorry on their account.

During one of the sittings the Empress sent for her two youngest sons, the Grand Duke Nicholas and the Grand Duke Michael. Never have I seen a finer child than the Grand Duke Nicholas, the present Emperor. I could, I believe, paint him from memory to-day, so much did I admire his enchanting face, which bore all the characteristics of Greek beauty.

I remember, too, a type of beauty of an altogether different kind – an old man. Although in Russia the Emperor is the supreme head of the church, as well as of the government and the army, the religious. power is held, under him, by the first "pope," called "the great archimandrite," who is about the same to the Russians that the Holy Father is to us. While living in St. Petersburg I had often heard of the merit and virtues of the divine occupying this post, and one day some of my acquaintances who were going to visit him, proposing to take me with them, I eagerly accepted their invitation. Never in my life had I been in the presence of such an imposing man. His figure was tall and majestic; his handsome face, whose every feature was endowed with perfect regularity, expressed at once a gentleness and a nobility difficult to describe; a long white beard, falling below the chest, added to the venerable appearance of his magnificent head. His dress was simple and dignified. He wore a long white robe, divided in front, from top to bottom, by a broad strip of black material, which made the whiteness of his beard stand out admirably. His walk, his gestures, his glance, – everything about him commanded respect from the very first. The great archimandrite was a superior man. He had a profound mind and great learning, and spoke several languages; besides, by reason of his virtues and kindness he was cherished by all who knew him. His grave vocation never prevented him from being affable and gracious toward high society. One of the Princesses Galitzin, who was very beautiful, seeing him in a garden one day, ran to throw herself on her knees before him. The old man at once picked a rose and gave it to her, accompanying it with his blessing. One of my regrets on leaving St. Petersburg was my not having done the archimandrite's portrait, for I believe no painter could ever meet with a finer model.

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