A Young Woman with a Book (1756-1762). Pietro Antonio Rotari (1707–1762). Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
Painted for royal and aristocratic patrons in Dresden, Vienna, and Munich. He was much in demand as a portraitist, and painted royal families in Dresden and Saint Petersburg. He also painted the multi-figured altarpieces of the Four Martyrs (1745) for the church of the Ospedale di San Giacomo in Verona.
Rotari’s reputation procured for him an invitation from Elizabeth I, Empress of Russia, which he accepted in 1756, shortly thereafter becoming court painter to the Empress, a position he held until his death. The best-known of his works for the Russian court are his portraits, of which he made a vast number.
Besides these court portraits, however, Rotari’s primary activity in Russia seems to have been to paint a huge number of portraits of apparently anonymous Russians. While he sometimes produced images of the children and young ladies of the nobility, more frequently his portraits constitute an almost nationalistic survey of Russian villagers and peasants.