PORTRAIT OF EMPRESS CATHERINE II IN RUSSIAN DRESS
This portrait is a rare copy from the original made by the court artist of Catherine II Stefano Torelli. It was always kept in private collections and wasn’t extensively copied.
The artist has depicted Catherine II in the carnival Russian dress. In her hand she holds a black carnival mask.
Since the time of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich attitude to the Russian national and Western costumes passed through a number of peculiar transformations. In time of Alexei Mikhailovich wearing Western clothing was permitted only to Princes and their closest entourage, but it was widely used as a masquerade outfit. Soon after the accession of Peter I to the throne he prohibited wearing of the national costume by the nobles, and in turn the Russian dress began to be used as masquerade attire. In the XVIII Century, students and schoolchildren put on peasant clothes as punishment. Catherine II introduced the "Russian dress" as the imperial court fashion, fitted with veil and open armholes on the sleeves, court wits called it "Sarafan a la Française". Those apparel combined trends prevailing in French fashion with elements of an Old Russian costume. The introduction of this fashion by Catherine somehow "rehabilitated" national costume. The tradition to wear a Russian dress at Court during the ceremonial events resumed later in time of Emperor Nicholas I.