Theses Doctoral

Art and Power in the Reign of Catherine the Great: The State Portraits

McBurney, Erin

This dissertation examines the relationship between art and power in the reign of Catherine II of Russia (1762-1796). It considers Catherine's state portraits as historical texts that revealed symbolic manifestations of autocratic power, underscoring the close relationship between aesthetics and politics during the reign of Russia's longest serving female ruler. The Russian empress actively exploited the portrait medium in order to transcend the limitations of her gender, assert legitimacy and display herself as an exemplar of absolute monarchy. The resulting symbolic representation was protean and adaptive, and it provided Catherine with a means to negotiate the anomaly of female rule and the ambiguity of her Petrine inheritance. In the reign of Catherine the Great, the state portraits functioned as an alternate form of political discourse.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Wortman, Richard S.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014