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First, Henri François Gabriel Viollier’s framed group of seven studies of the Empress Maria Feodorovna and six children, top right, was taken to £55,000.

Then the same determined buyer went to £29,000 against an estimate of £5000-7000 to secure this single portrait by Franz Gerhard von Kugelgen of the Empress in widow’s black, bottom right.

Maria Feodorovna built up a cult of veneration to her husband Paul I after his assassination in 1801. In this portrait she is shown wearing her personal emblems of this cult: the Cross of the Order of Malta and a small cameo medallion of her husband which she had carved herself and continued to wear for nearly a quarter of a century after his death.

The miniature was given by the Empress to Prince Alexander Nicholaievich Golitzin, a close friend of Emperor Alexander I, as detailed in the slightly later cyrillic-inscribed gilt metal plaques applied to the leather wallet in which the portrait is encased.

The miniature was previously sold at Christie’s in 1966 and again at Sotheby’s in 1995 when it made £3000.