Monday, February 7, 2011
Immortal Companion: Catherine the Great
Nothing is quite so sad as the loss of a pet. Just ask the empress of Russia.
Catherine II, didn't earn the name Catherine the Great by sitting on her tush and letting others rule for her. She took charge of her large country and made sure her court rivaled those of the bedazzled European countries. That takes a lot of work! On her downtime you would see the empress with her dogs. While many monarchs of the time favored the ever-popular pug, Catherine has a thing for Italian Greyhounds. She also had a thing for unique dog names; Sir Tom Anderson and Duchess Anderson were some of her other Italian Greyhounds.
Amongst the many different dogs Catherine had as pets, the favorite was Zemira. This little greyhound was named after the heroine from a Beauty and the Beast opera, Zemira and Azor. Zemira slept in her mistress' room in a pink silk-lined cradle and joined her for her daily walks. When Catherine had the artist, Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky paint her in 1794 she chose him to portray her doing something she enjoyed most, walking in the park with Zemira. Sadly, "the beautiful Zemira" had been dead for almost ten years when the portrait had been painted, yet art historians believe the portrait is a posthumous dog portrait rather than one of Catherine's dog at the time. Other sculptures and porcelains of Zemira exist too, proving just how beloved the dog was to the Russian monarch.
When Zemira died Catherine was inconsolable. She shut herself in her room for days. Zemira was buried in Catherine's pet cemetery under the largest tomb, etched into the stone was, "Beloved dog of the Great Queen."