PIETRO ANTONIO ROTARI (Verona 1707 – 1762 Saint Petersburg)
Born in Verona, Pietro Rotari first trained there with Antonio Balestra, before travelling to Venice (1725 – 1727) and thence to Rome (c. 1728), where he studied for four years under Francesco Trevisani. From 1731- 1734 he continued his studies with Francesco Solimena in Naples and then returned to Verona where he set up his own studio and school. Around 1751 he left for Vienna and it was there, while working at the court of the Holy Roman Empress, Maria-Theresa, that he met Jean-Etienne Liotard, whose work influenced him greatly. In the winter of 1752/3 he was summoned to Dresden by King Augustus III of Poland, an avid collector and patron of the arts, who had surrounded himself with an international circle of artists, such as Louis de Silvestre, Anton Raphael Mengs and Bernardo Bellotto. There Rotari produced several portraits of the royal family and began to paint imaginary portraits of figures displaying various emotions. By this time his reputation had grown such that he was invited by Empress Elizabeth of Russia to go to Saint Petersburg as First Painter of the Court. Arriving there in 1756, he set up a private school of painting, whose pupils included Louis Tocqué. He amassed a great fortune and a visit to his house on the Bolsciasia Morskaia was obligatory for high-ranking visitors to the city.
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