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1764: Empress Catherine II acquired Johann Ernest Gotzkowski's collection, the first collection of the Museum

In 1764 Empress Catherine II acquired the collection formed by Johann Gotzkowski for King Frederick II of Prussia. A rich Berlin merchant and founder of silk and porcelain factories in Berlin, Johann Gotzkowski was one of Frederick's agents, in charge of the purchase of works of art for the royal collection. Frederick II (the Great), owner of a wonderful collection of contemporary French paintings, ordered Gotzkowski to purchase paintings by old masters. The merchant was a zealous agent and it took him only a few years to put together a large collection, but by this time Frederick had lost large sums of money in the Seven Years War and he refused to make the purchase.

The enterprising merchant was forced to look around for alternative buyers and he offered the collection to Russia. Catherine II was pleased to take the opportunity of hurting Frederick's self-esteem and of proving that the Russian State Treasury, despite losses which were no less than those of Prussia, could still afford to make such an expensive acquisition. The 225 paintings in the collection were of uneven quality, as Gotzkowski was not a great specialist in painting. There were mainly Dutch and Flemish works - Frans Hals's Portrait of a Young Man with a Glove and Jan Steen's The Idlers are considered the best - as well as a number of 17th-century Italian pieces.




Portrait of a Young Man with a Glove
Frans Hals



The Idlers
Jan Steen
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