Strolls Through the Hermitage.

Riddles of the Winter Palace’s Military Gallery.
By Aleksandr Kibovskii.


[From Tseikhgauz No 13, 1/2001. Pages 18-21.]


“If you see ‘buffalo’ written on an elephant’s cage, don’t believe it.”     Koz’ma Prutkov.


            In an article on the captured cuirasses of the Pskov Dragoon Regiment (Tseikhgauz No. 11), we printed a portrait of its commander, Major General A.A. Zass, from the Military Gallery in the Winter Palace. The magazine received many responses that said that in publications and catalogs of the State Hermitage this portrait is captioned as a likeness of another participant of the war with the same last name—General A.P. Zass. Our readers’ confusion is fully understandable. The Military Gallery, containing 333 portraits of Russian generals and commanders, is one of our most important Russian cultural items. It has always been the subject of attention from historians and art experts. Many articles and monographs have been written about the gallery. Several attempts have been made to describe it in full. In 1845-49 A.I. Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii and A.V. Viskovatov published 151 portraits in the six volumes of their Imperator Aleksandr I: ego spodvizhniki v 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815 godakh: Voennaya galereya Zimnego Dvortsa. For the centenary of the Patriotic War there appeared the grand work Voennaya galereya 1812 goda. 1812-1912, which included photographs of all the portraits. In 1974 and 1981 came V.M. Glinka and A.V. Pomarnatskii’s albums Voennaya galereya Zimnego Dvortsa. It would seem that after all these works and publications on this collection of portraits, which is the pearl of our country’s preeminent museum, there could not be any gaps or errors. But alas, even here Koz’ma Prutkov’s famous aphorism maintains its sorry accuracy. Due to its readers’ questions, Tseikhgauz considers it necessary to present a commentary and explanations.


            It is true that the label “A.P. Zass 2nd Major General” is on the frame of the disputed portrait, located in the fourth row from the bottom between the portrait of Barclay de Tolly and the gallery’s exit (Inv. No. GE 8068). In 1849, Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii in Volume 6 of his Imperator Aleksandr I: ego spodvizhniki v 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815 godakh: Voennaya galereya Zimnego Dvortsa expanded the initials and published the portrait with the caption “Aleksandr Pavlovich Zass.” This same statement was repeated in the large 1912 work Voennaya galereya 1812 goda. In 1981, in Glinka and Pomarnatskii’s album Voennaya galereya Zimnego Dvortsa, the caption was changed in an irritating error… As it was, in the gallery there was yet another Zass portrait with the very same initials. It is positioned in the fifth row from the bottom between the portraits of Alexander I and Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, captioned “A.P. Zass Lieutenant General” (GE 7825). In all of the previous publications beginning in 1849, this was indicated as the likeness of Lieutenant General Andrei Pavlovich Zass. But in the 1981 album of portraits, the photographs turned out mixed up and the heretofore “Aleksandr Pavlovich” became Andrei Pavlovich Zass, while “Andrei Pavlovich” became—Aleksandr.

            Still, it is easy enough to find out “who’s who.” On the uniform of the general in portrait GE 7825 can be clearly seen the order of St. Alexander Nevsky and the cross of the order of St. George 3rd class. Aleksandr Pavlovich Zass held only the 4th class of the order of St. George, and the order of Alexander Nevsky not at all. Of all the Zass’s who took part in the 1812-14 war, only Lieutenant General Andrei Pavlovich Zass could wear the 3rd class, which order he received on 13 June 1810 “for distinction and courage shown in battle against the Turkish forces at the capture of Turtukai on 19 May.”[1] According to the memoirs of S.G. Volkonskii, however, “distinction and courage” were a bit of an exaggeration: “…when we were crossing the Danube at Girsov, a separate force crossed this river opposite Turtukai. It was commanded by… Andrei Pavlovich Zass. Having successfully crossed the river, he immediately organized the storming of Turtukai, but this fortress’s weak garrison withdrew during the night, and our assault columns clambered into it without meeting opposition. In the circle of young officers who very much disliked the commander-in-chief [N.M. Kamenskii – A.K.], this gave rise to the following couplet:

            On leur donne la chasse.

            On n’y trouve que des souris

            On occupe la place

            Tourtoukai par Zass est conquis.


            They organize a hunt

            But find only mice.

            They enter the fortress,

            Turtukai is taken by Zass.[2]


            Whatever the case may have been, for Turtukai Andrei Pavlovich Zass was awarded the order of St. George 3rd class. Even earlier, for the 1809 campaign, he received the order of St. Alexander Nevsky. Thus, portrait GE 7825 does indeed depict Andrei Pavlovich. However, the mistake with the A.P. Zass portraits is not the only one in the 1981 album. The photographs of the portraits of Pavel Petrovich and Petr Petrovich Pahlen [Palen] have been switched in exactly the same way.

            More difficult is the question of determining the person in portrait GE 8608. As we explained, to agree with the label it must be a likeness of Aleksandr Pavlovich Zass. However, among the general’s decorations is clearly seen a gold cross on a St.-George ribbon, the shape of which is close to the commemorative officers’ crosses for the capture of Ochakov (1788), Izmail (1790), and the Praga suburb of Warsaw (1794). Aleksandr Pavlovich Zass was not at any one of these assaults. He was just born in 1782 and only on 13 November 1796, at the age of 14, did he receive his first officer rank of ensign. So naturally A.P. Zass would not have any gold cross. Moreover, at the time the Military Gallery was created he had the Prussian order of the Red Eagle 2nd class, which is missing from the general in the portrait. But who then is depicted here if it is neither Andrei nor Aleksandr Pavlovich Zass?

            The solution to the “secret of the house of Zass,” as we call it, is a follows. Still one more officer with that last name took part in the 1812 war—Andrei Andreevich Zass. He was enrolled as a senior sergeant [vakhmistr] in the Horse Guards in 1787, and in 1792 transferred to the Kiev Horse-Jäger Regiment as a captain [rotmistr]. With his unit, Zass took part in the 1794 campaign against the Poles. For the storming of Praga he received the ranks of second-major and the gold officer’s cross. Besides this cross, at the time the Military Gallery was founded A.A. Zass had the orders of St. Anne 1st class, St. Vladimir 3rd class, and St. George 4th class, as well as a silver medal commemorating the 1812 Patriotic War—i.e. the exact same awards as on the general in the portrait.[3] Thus, there remains no doubt that it is Major General Andrei Andreevich Zass who is depicted here.

            From the above research it is clear that Tseikhgauz did not make any mistake or error. As early as 1996, the compilers of the biographical dictionary Slovar’ russkikh generalov, uchastnikov boevykh deistvii protiv armii Napoleona Bonaparta v 1812-1815 corrected previous confusions and published the portraits with the true captions.[4] Unfortunately, though, the story of the Zass’s is not the only mix-up in the Military Gallery. Similar incorrect assumptions occurred with some other persons with the same last names. To unravel them today can only be done with a knowledge of orders and medals.

            There are two portraits of generals named Argamakov in the Military Gallery. One of them (GE 8070) is located near A.A. Zass’s portrait in the fourth row from the bottom between that of Barclay de Tolly and the gallery’s exit and is labeled “I.A. Argamakov 2nd Major General.” In 1848 Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii published it as a likeness of Ivan Andreevich Argamakov. Another portrait (GE 8131)—third from the left in the fifth row from the bottom between the portrait of Wellington and the gallery’s exit—has the label “I.V. Argamakov 1st Major General.” In the 1912 album and in subsequent works this is designated as a likeness of Ivan Vasil’evich Argamakov. Both generals have the orders of St. Vladimir 3rd class and St. George 4th class, the commodore’s cross of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and the silver medal commemorating the 1812 Patriotic War. But “Ivan Vasil’evich” Argamakov also has the star of the order of St. Anne 1st class, while “Ivan Andreevich” has the gold cross on a St.-George ribbon, with which we are familiar. As we have said, similarly shaped crosses were received by officers who took part in the stormings of Ochakov in 1788, Izmail in 1790, and Praga in 1794 (but who did not merit at these events the order of St. George or St. Vladimir).

            Both Argamakov’s were in the 1794 campaign against the Poles. But Ivan Andreevich Argamakov, as a lieutenant of the Ingermanland Carabinier Regiment, was in Lithuania. Here he received his baptism of fire. For bravery in the Battle of Vilno on 31 July 1794 he was given the rank of captain. With this his battlefield activities ceased.[5] Thus he naturally never received any kind of gold cross and could not have posed for a portrait wearing one. Meanwhile, Captain Ivan Vasil’evich Argamakov of the Sofiya Carabinier Regiment completed the campaign into the heart of Poland and for the storming of the Praga retrenchments was awarded a gold cross on St.-George ribbon on 1 January 1795. Later the Argamakov’s took part in various campaigns. By the beginning of the 1812 war both were leading regiments: I.A. Argamakov was chef of the Zhitomir Dragoon Regiment and I.V. Argamakov was commander of the Vladimir Dragoons. For distinction in the battles of 1813-14 both were promoted to major general, but the leader in regard to awards was Ivan Andreevich Argamakov. He received the order of St. Anne 1st class for the Battle of Leipzig on 6 and 7 October 1813, but Ivan Vasil’evich did not rise higher than the order of St. Vladimir 3rd class. Returning now to the portraits in the Military Gallery, it must follow that the labels on the frames and subsequent identifications of the generals were mixed up. It is Ivan Vasil’evich Argamakov (GE 8070) who is depicted with the Praga cross, of course, and not Ivan Andreevich. The former also appears older, and the age difference between these generals was twelve years. The real portrait of Ivan Andreevich Argamakov (with the St. Anne star on his chest) is located on the opposite wall (GE 8131).

            There was even more of a riddle with the portraits of the Rosen [Rozen] generals. There are three of them in the Military Gallery: Aleksandr Vladimirovich, Grigorii Vladimirovich, and Fedor Fedorovich. The portrait of Lieutenant General Grigorii Vladimirovich Rosen does not cause any doubt—the baron is shown in the uniform of the Life-Guards Preobrazhenskii Regiment with the distinctions of a general-adjutant, the order of St. George 3rd class, star of the order of St. Vladimir 2nd class, Kulm cross, and silver and bronze medals commemorating the 1812 Patriotic War. But thee arises real confusion with the remaining Rosen’s. One of the portraits—in the third row from the bottom between the portrait of the Duke of Wellington and the gallery’s exit—is labeled “Baron A.V. Rosen 2nd Major General” (GE 7987). On the same wall but in the second row from the bottom is located a portrait with the label “Baron F.F. Rosen 3rd Major General” (GE 8115). On this painting is even the artist’s signature: “From nature by G. Dawe 1823.”—the indisputable (in English) evidence of Dawe’s own work.

            In comparing the two portraits some peculiarities can be observed. “Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rosen” does not at all resemble his brother Grigorii Vladimirovich. Of course, anything is possible, and this would not merit special attention if it were not for one circumstance. Who remarkably resembles Grigorii Vladimirovich is the so-called “Fedor Fedorovich Rosen.” But note that in 1848 Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, who could well have personally known both persons, published the portrait “Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rosen” with caption—“Fedor Fedorovich Rosen”! In the 1912 album, though, this portrait (GE 7987) was printed as the likeness of Aleksandr Vladimirovich, as originally labeled. Working out this tangled story could only be done with the help of a study of both generals’ awards.

            When the Military Gallery was created the lists of Russian awards for A.V. and F.F. Rosen were identical: orders of St. Anne 1st class, St. Vladimir 3rd class, St. George 4th class, commodore crosses of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and silver and bronze medals in memory of the 1812 Patriotic War (A.V. Rosen also had a gold saber “For Courage,” but this would not be visible in the portrait). The collections of foreign awards, however, were very different for the two generals. F.F. Rosen had only the Prussian “Pour le mérite.” A.V. Rosen, on the other hand, earned many awards: the Austrian military order of Marie Theresa, the Prussian order of the Red Eagle 2nd class, and the Sardinian order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus. In the Russian army this last order was predominantly held by participants of the 1799 Italian campaign. As Ye.F. Komarovskii recalled:

…the king of Sardinia sent the generalissimus the chain of the order of Sts. Lazarus and Maurice and several orders worn around the neck and in a buttonhole. …The award of these orders was left to… Prince Suvorov as he saw fit, for the liberation of Piedmont from enemy, it being a province belonging to the Sardinian king… Prince Suvorov set to distributing the orders with more partiality that was becoming, for those who received them were either his relations in the army or officials serving with him. Of those persons who actually distinguished themselves in the army, almost none received anything.[6]

A.V. Rosen took part in the Italian campaign, distinguished himself in battle, and from 14 July 1799 was an adjutant to Suvorov. Thus, his decoration (officially—for the capture of Turin on 14 May 1799) was fully legitimate. F.F. Rosen did not have the order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus for the 1799-1800 campaign, nor did he receive those of Marie Theresa or the Red Eagle.

            Now, returning again to the Military Gallery, we can see on the portrait of “Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rosen” that the above orders are missing. In addition, “Fedor Fedorovich Rosen” does have the order of the Red Eagle 2nd class, the order of Marie Theresa, and even the order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus. Such a perfect mutual mismatch allows us to confirm that Danilovskii-Mikhailovskii was right. The portraits’ labels were switched. Portrait GE 7987 must therefore be really a depiction of Fedor Fedorovich Rosen, and portrait GE 8115 must accordingly be Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rosen.

            The cited examples are far from exhausting all the puzzles of the Winter Palace’s Military Gallery. If this theme interests readers, then the stories may be continued. Only in the Hermitage’s glossy booklets and official albums is the Military Gallery presented as a long familiar and thoroughly studied collection. But it is worth looking closer—and from the walls hundreds of historic faces are smiling and consoling, smirking and grieving, as they conceal still many more secrets of the past. However, to penetrate to that other side of the painted canvas one needs a key of a very specific kind. The researching of the portraits of the Zass’s, Argamakov’s, and Rosen’s are more than enough to show how the historical objective method is of such important practical significance in attributing art objects. Its basis is the knowledge of uniforms, decorations, historical facts, and past actualities, and they allow one to reconsider many national art pieces, sometimes ones that have endured to become something of a stereotype. In some cases, similar to the ones presented above, this method is the irreplaceable sole means of identifying a portrayed personage on a scientific basis.





Page 19: (Above) Major General Andrei Andreevich Zass (GE 8068). (Below) Lieutenant General Andrei Pavlovich Zass (GE 7825).


Page 20: (Top left) Major General Ivan Andreevich Argamakov 2nd (GE 8131). (Top right) Major General Ivan Vasil’evich Argamakov 1st (GE 8070). (Bottom left) Major General Fedor Fedorovich Rosen 3rd (GE 7987). (Bottom center) Lieutenant General Grigorii Vladimirovich Rosen 1st (GE 7864). (Bottom right) Major General Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rosen 2nd (GE 8115).


[1] Voennyi sbornik. 1909. No. 8. Page 252.

[2] S.G. Volkonskii. Zapiski. Irkutsk, 1991. Pages 151-152.

[3] Spisok generalam s oznacheniem imen, znakov otlichiya i starshinstva v chinakh. Napechatan po 19 iyunya 1825 g. St. Petersburg, 1825. Page 205.

[4] Rossiiskii arkhiv. Issue VII. Moscow, 1996. Pages 399-400.

[5] V.I. Genishta and A.T. Borisevich. Istoriya 30-go dragunskogo Ingermanlandskogo polka 1704-1904. Chast’ I. St. Petersburg, 1904. Pages 79-87.

[6] Ye.F. Komarovskii. Zapiski. Moscow, 1990. Page 58.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2001