Dorothea Benckendorff was born in Russia of German descent. In 1800 she married Count Christoph von Lieven, later Prince Lieven, who was appointed Russian ambassador in Berlin, and from 1812-34 in England. An ambitious woman, she was the mistress of Metternich, and held celebrated salons to which various diplomatic dignitaries were invited, winning her the nickname 'the Sybil of diplomacy'.
After her husband's recall she settled in Paris. A brilliant personality, she was intimate with the great world of London and Paris, and her Paris salon acquired some note. Her friends included Metternich, Wellington, and Guizot. Her diary and much of her correspondence have been published in English.
The unfinished portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, which has been printed in black and white on the front pages of the Private Letters, hangs in the Tate Gallery in London and Sir Thomas Lawrence has slightly flattered his sitter, mainly by slimming down and extending her neck. The work is an excellent example of his assured technique and rapidity of execution.
This book was a very rare find and an absolute treasure for those who know of Princess Lieven.
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