August 1, 2016

2672 SWEDEN (Stockholm) - Zoie Ghika, Moldavian Princess

The beginning of the 18th century was a period of material reconstruction in Sweden as the country tried to recover from the huge costs of King Charles XII's wars therefore relatively few commissions were forthcoming from the court, the church and the nobility. Many of the newly trained Swedish artists, among them Alexander Roslin (1718-1793), went abroad to search for a living. Thanks to contacts and letters of recommendation he became a court painter both in Bayreuth and in Parma.

In 1752, when Roslin settled in Paris, was elected a member of the French Académie. He then spent the rest of his life in France, except for two years in the service of Catherine II (1775-1777). Actually he arrived in Russia after a brief visit to his homeland, where he had been elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, oddly enough as a foreign honorary member. In St. Petersburg he painted several portraits of Empress Catherine II and some notable portraits of Russian aristocrats (altogether 75 commissions).

Among these portraits is the one of Zoie Ghika, an exotic addition to the Russian court, and a symbol of the geographic expansion of the Russian empire towards the Black Sea. It must be said, however, that her presentation as a Moldavian princess is not very accurate, more suitable being the one of Romanian princess. Her father, Scarlat Ghica, was indeed a Prince of Moldavia (1757-1758), but was also twice Prince of Wallachia (1758-1761; 1765-1766).

The Ghica family were a Romanian noble family (of Albanian or Aromanian origin) active in Wallachia, Moldavia and in the Kingdom of Romania. In the tumultuous context of the Phanariot reigns, threatened by the whim of the sultans and of the Ottoman officials, many members of Ghica family, as also many other Romanian aristocrats, had found refuge at the court of the Tsar, who watched with great interest, especially in the time of Catherine II, the idea of annexation of the Romanian principalities.

The princess Zoie Ghika is depicted in a manner that differs from the bulk of Roslin's portraits. She is shown without a wig, and is wearing a costume frequently found at that time in Moldavia and Wallachia - a turban-like bonnet decorated with roses, a white silk dress with silver ribbons and lace edges and a sleeveless fur jacket. Her costume is elegant without suggesting excessive wealth. The portrait was inherited by the Sumarokov-Elston princes and then Gagarin, and then it was bought in Paris by the Swedish state, now being in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm.

About the stamp
The stamp is one of the six of the series Food in Sweden, designed by Gustav Mårtensson, Carina Länk & Veronica Ballart Lilja, and issued on March 17, 2016.

Zoie Ghika, Moldavian Princess - Google Arts and Culture
Despre un portret al domniţei Zoe Ghika, de Mihai Sorin Radulescu (rom) - România literară
Ghica Family - Wikipedia

Senders: Ona Frantz and Michael Haulică
Sent from Stockholm (Stockholm / Sweden), on 25.07.2016 

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