© National Museums of Scotland
Formerly in Hamilton Palace, South Lanarkshire
Alexander, 10th Duke of
Hamiltonís appointment as ambassador to Russia was not regarded
as a success. He failed to achieve the two key objectives laid down
by the British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Howick. These were to
sign a new commercial treaty with Russia (to replace the existing
treaty which was due to expire) and to get Russia to 'guarantee'
the return of the Electorate of Hanover to King George III. Alexander
was also criticised for passing a petition from the British merchants
in St Petersburg to the Russian government in its raw form, instead
of rewriting it in diplomatic language.
Nevertheless, Alexander enjoyed the two years
(1807 and 1808) that he spent in Russia, and his visits to Poland
and Sweden. His acquisitions included this splendid bronze bust
of Tsar Peter the Great, which replicates or copies the clay bust
modelled by the Italian sculptor Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli, in
St Petersburg, in 1723. It came with a 'companion' or matching bust
of the Empress Catherine II, who had died in 1796. This enlightened
and racy autocrat clearly fascinated Alexander. He commissioned
a full-length tapestry portrait of the Empress from the Imperial
Tapestry Factory and also managed to secure one of her sable muffs
and at least one oil painting of her.