Today’s painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is her enchanting portrait of Princess Tatyana Vasilievna Yusupova (1769-1841), who she painted in St Petersburg in 1797. Tatyana was an ancestress of Prince Felix Yusupov.
Tatyana was the youngest of the famous Engelhardt sisters, who were brought to St Petersburg, showered with riches and installed at court by their uncle Prince Grigory Potemkin, the great love of Catherine the Great’s life. Unlike at least three of her elder sisters, including Ekaterina who was painted twice by Vigée Le Brun, Tatyana was not sexually involved with her uncle. Her first marriage was with a much older cousin, Count Mikhail Sergeevich Potemkin, whom she married in 1785, and after he died in 1791, she married again two years later to the celebrated art collector Prince Nikolai Borisovich Yusupov in a match arranged by her patroness Catherine the Great. The marriage was not a happy one but the couple were so enormously wealthy thanks to the famous Yusupov fortune and Tatyana’s personal inheritance from her uncle, that they were able to live entirely separate lives. Amongst Tatyana’s famously opulent personal jewellery collection was a pair of diamond earrings that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, the ‘Polar Star’ diamond and the Pelegrina pearl. Their only remaining child, Prince Boris Yusupov would inherit the lot.