Antonio Vighi - inv. 4640
Giulio Renato Litta (1763-1839) was a prominent personality on the European stage between the Revolution and the Restoration. Made a Knight of Malta at seventeen, then a Grand Master, he was invited to Russia in 1788 by Catherine II with military and diplomatic positions and took Russian citizenship in 1798. This painting shows him aged forty-five, at the height of his success, with the cross of Malta hanging on his breast together with various other military honours. He is pointing to the ship that alludes to the battle against Sweden which resulted in his appointment to admiral and the beginning of a brilliant career. On his death, in St Petersburg, most of his property was transferred to his heirs in Milan.
The portrait is by Antonio Vighi, an Italian artist active between the end of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, who specialised in portraiture and palace ceiling decoration. Vighi settled in St Petersburg in 1806, and all his subsequent work was done there. For this reason he is quite unknown in Italy, where it is rare to see his paintings. The Portrait of Admiral Litta, with its brilliant colours, strongly characterised face and insistence on the sitter's high social standing, is a good example of this artist's style and quality.