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Trans. by S. Koval

In 1983 the “Priyutino” Museum took possession of two paired watercolor portraits, coming, according to the last owner, from the Olive collection. One of the portraits represents a lady dressed in the fashion of the 1830s, and the other portrays a general and carries a monogram "R" and the date “1836” near the General's shoulder under the epaulet. Details like insignia and decorations give a chance to identify the person of the General; he might be conjectured, in Pushkin's words, to be one of ...Those leaders of the patriotic force Who bravely fought and covered 'self with fame In eighteeen twelve's illustrious campaign.

The artist represented a white-haired elderly man wearing a general's common tunic characteristic of 1829-1855. The lack of stars on his epaulets indicate his rank as “full” general: in 1827 a regulation was issued prescribing the placing on epaulets of a certain number of stars for all ranks except captain, colonel and generals of infantry, of cavalry, artillery, and general-engineers.

His high rank quite corresponds to the decorations that can be distinctly recognized on the portrait. The red sash over the left shoulder and the star covered with it by half are signs of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky. Under that Order's star the star of the Order of St. Vladimir is represented, which together with the St. Vladimir's cross pertains to the decorations of the 2nd class. Over the cross of the Order of St. Vladimir there is a cross of the Order of St. George, 3rd grade.

Under those crosses there is St. Anne's cross that marks, in contrast to them, the 2nd and not the 3rd class of decorations. But the strict hierarchy in the Russian awards system inhibited the bearer of the Order of St. Anne, 2nd grade from getting Orders of St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Vladimir, 2nd class, before being awarded with the Order of St. Anne of the highest grade, that was inferior to them in rank. At the same time it is known that on awarding the bearer of the Order of St. Anne, 1st grade, with the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky the star of the Order of St. Anne was removed and the cross was transferred from a shoulder sash to a neck ribbon. The regulation that was introduced as early as in the 18th century and confirmed with the Statute of the Order of St. Anne in 1845 can be evidenced with abundant iconography. As a classical example can be considered the widely known portrait of G. R. Derzhavin by V. L. Borovikovsky (1811). The Order of St. Anne, 1st grade, whose sash was, according to the poet's reminiscences, “laid” on him by Emperor Paul “on the first day of 1798 or 1799”, is marked on the portrait with the cross on the neck ribbon, and not on the shoulder sash. There is no star of the Order of St. Anne on Derzhavin's coat, because on the day of Alexander I's crowning in 1801 Derzhavin was conferred the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky,(1) depicted by Borovikovsky along with the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem and of St. Vladimir, 2nd class.

Hence the St. Anne's cross at the General's neck should be considered as the sign of the Order of St. Anne of the 1st and not the 2nd grade. On the General's breast there is a strip with a cross and three medals. The golden cross with rounded ends at the St. George's ribbon is one of the two awards established during the Turkish war of 1787-1791 for merit in the capture of Ochakov in 1788 and in the assault of Izmail in 1790. Those crosses had similar configuration, so that it is impossible to determine which one is the award on the painting, the more so, it is not represented quite right: both crosses had oval medallions, and not round like that on the Priyutino portrait.

Next to the golden cross attached to the plate are silver medals commemorating the Patriotic war of 1812 (at the St. Andrew's ribbon) and entry of the Russian troops into Paris (at the St. Andrew and St. George's ribbon), then - the bronze medal commemorating 1812 (at the St. Vladimir's ribbon).

So the task of identifying the personality of the unknown man on the portrait is reduced to finding among the full generals being on service in the Russian army in 1836 the bearer of the Orders of St. Alexander Nevsky, St. Vladimir, 2nd class, St. Anne, 1st class, and St. George, 3rd class, awarded with the golden cross for Ochakov or Izmail and medals for 1812 and 1814.

It turned out that the said combination of awards among the full generals in 1836 belonged only to General of Infantry Yeremei Yakovlevich Savoini(2) — participant of more than twenty battles of the Turkish wars of 1787-1789, 1809-1812, the Patriotic War of 1812 and the external campaigns of 1813 and 1814.(3)

Geronimo Savoini was born on May 1, 1766(4) in Florence. The invitation from his compatriot, would-be famous admiral I. M. de Ribas impelled his familiy to leave Italy and move to the New Russian (Novorossiysky) lands. On the enlistment at the age of 18 in the Russian service as a sergeant, Savoini linked his destiny with Russia forever.

He went through his baptism of fire in September of 1789 during the assault of the Hacibey fortress, on the spot of which the town of Odessa would be founded later, and for merit on his seventh year in the army was promoted to an officer's rank. But he didn't serve as an ensign even two months: his participation in the assault of Izmail brought him the lieutenant's rank and his first combat award - the golden Izmail cross with a certificate signed by Suvorov. Savoini entered the next war with Turkey (1806-1812) already as an experienced staff officer, and in 1808 he was appointed the commander of the Ladoga Infantry Regiment. Savoini combined the resoluteness and energy of a talented commander with the presence of mind and bravery of a tried soldier. These virtues were fully displayed by him in the battle at Frasina that decided the fate of Bucharest on August 29, 1809. “I might suffer great casualties,- A.F.Langeron recalls in his memoirs,- but for rare firmness and enterprise of a battalion of the Ladoga Regiment and its brave commander Major Savoini who saved the cause taking all the blow to themselves. Any other battalion being less steadfast at war might be overthrown and beaten... The battalion of the Ladoga Regiment quickly went over the bridge as well as the spring and having occupied a small platform on the large road to Bucharest re-formed to square, where it was attacked by the Turkish cavalry with the rage I had rarely seen with the Turks. Bosniak Aga commanding that detachment considered the soldiers of the battalion already killed. Bosniak charged it five or six times, but always without success. Three Turks being brought by their horses inside the square were instantly killed under bayonets. For an hour that valorous battalion, being encircled with Turks, repelled all attacks. All the rounds were already used up, but not a person wavered. Major Savoini quite deserving to command his soldiers, was on horseback in the middle of the square, watching everybody, thinking about everything, directing everything and encouraging the soldiers, promised soon help which in fact came soon. The battalion had already lost 100 killed and wounded and its ranks were emptying, but the Turkish casualties were immense”.(5)

St. Vladimir, 4th grade with a bow, a heavy shell-shock and promotion to the next ranks for merit, St. George, 4th class, golden sword “For valor” and St. Anne, 2nd grade are the results of that war for Lieutenant Colonel Savoini. But the peace that followed the Bucharest treaty signed by Russia and Turkey on May 16, 1812 did not last even for a month: on June 12, Napoleon crossed the Neman.

Savoini entered the Patriotic War as a commander of a brigade of the 26th Infantry Division under I. F. Paskevich being part of the 7th Infantry Corps of N. N. Rayevsky.

In the battle at Borodino the objective of the 26th Division was to defend the Rayevsky's battery. Considering it the key point of the Russian position, Napoleon moved tremendous force to assault it. “For a long time our weak fortification was holding out against the concentrated fire of the enemy's strong batteries,- A. P. Yermolov wrote later,- but then not a single charge [was] left at its eighteen guns, their fires died out and facilitated the approach of the French”. The enemy's columns of Brigade General Bonami managed to burst into the fortification, and a close fight broke out in the battery. The famous Yermolov's attack brought the redoubt back to the Russians. “On seizing the hill,- Yermolov recalls,- I ordered to beat an assembly, and the wounded Colonel Savoini came to me with a small number of officers and lower ranks”.(6) A handful of the surviving defenders of the battery was relieved by the division of General P. G. Likhachev who would later be killed on the mound. The “shot-through Colonel of the 26th Division, Savoini”, as he was called by Denis Davydov in his notes,(7) was sent for treatment to the rear; his hip was broken by canister, a bullet chocked his elbow...

In two months Savoini came back to his division as General Major, being promoted to the rank for “special valor” displayed at Borodino. As soon as in November in a new engagement with the enemy near the village Zhernovka and at Krasnoye, Savoini was again awarded with “golden weapon” - a sword with diamonds and the inscription “For Valor”. In the last days of 1812 in pursuit of the French Savoini with his division crossed the Neman. Savoini's brigade entered the campaign of 1813 in Poland besieging the strategically crucial fortress of Modlin; then, passing through Prussia and Bohemia, they were advancing in fights to Dresden. In the battle at Dresden he earned the Order of St. Anne, 1st class. After the “Battle of Nations” and the assault of Leipzig the Order of St. Vladimir, 3rd grade was added to his awards: the Commander of the Corps, D. S. Dokhturov, reported to the Commander-in-Chief that in the attack on the town fortifications of Leipzig by the regiments of the 26th Division “General Major Savoini was especially distinguished himself with courage and presence of mind”.(8) Further, Savoini's war fate led him through Magdeburg and Hamburg, where a number of heavy fights took place.

On February 5, 1814, Savoini, being appointed by the order of Dokhturov the commander of the separate storm column, captured the Wilhelmsburg Island defended desperately by the French and burned the bridge over the Elba, which connected the fortress Harburg with Hamburg. During the onslaught of Wilhelmsburg, Savoini saved the life of the valiant Lieutenant Colonel Karl Ivanovich Tenner - an outstanding military geodesist and astronomer. The general didn't think at that time that he had saved from death the one whom he would later have marrying his only daughter... In three weeks, after a fierce fight, Savoini captured the French fortifications at Tiefenstock on Bielwerder Island. For Wilhelmsburg and Tiefenstock Savoini was awarded the Order of St. George, 3rd class. “In all those actions, — A. I. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky testifies, — Savoini was in front of his columns and always was one of the first to climb the enemy's ramparts”.

After the end of the wars with Napoleon, Savoini commanded a division, then a corps. For his service, eager and zealous as before, he was granted the Order of St. Vladimir, 2nd class (1829) and Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (1830). In 1833 Savoini was promoted to general of infantry.(9) He continued his service to the end of his life; Yeremei Yakovlevich Savoini died in Petersburg on April 7, 1836, only three weeks before his 70th birthday, failing to see his grandson who would be born on the next day and inherit his name. Savoini was buried in the Smolensky evangelical cemetry in Petersburg.

His grave turned out to be impossible to find; it was easier to find descendents of Savoini. The general left a widow - Ludviga Danilovna, son Aleksandr, a cadet of the Life Guard Lancer Regiment, and daughter Yekaterina, who married K. I. Tenner. The male branch of Ye. Ya. Savoini's offsprings seems to have stopped at Aleksandr, but Yekaterina had three sons and three daughters. The name Tenner can be encountered on pages of various reference books up to the first years of this century, then Tenners' traces got lost. But in the general catalogue of the M. E. Saltykov-Schedrin Public Library bibliographic data were unexpectedly found on a collected works book on the natural resources of the Kola peninsula, which was published in Leningrad in 1972 under edition of D. D. Tenner.

To much surprise, the “09” information service gave his telephone number immediately.

I am calling Dmitry Dmitrievich.

“Dmitry Dmitrievich died two years ago”

My apologies follow. Then I ask if he was not a son of Dmitry Eduardovich Tenner, a general major?

“He was”

“But Dmitry Eduardovich was a grandson...”
“...of an astronomer and geodesist Karl Tenner.”
“And do you know that Karl Ivanovich was the son-in-law...”
“...of General Savoini, a hero of 1812? Yes, sure.”

Thus my acquaintance with descendants of Ye. Ya. Savoini in the fifth generation - Galina Dmitrievna Golitsynskaya, a university teacher, and architect Dmitry Aleksandrovich Butyrin. The family of G. D. Golitsinskaya preserved “The Formulary List of Service and Virtues of General of Infantry Savoini” dated by 1836 that gives several expressive finishing touches to the character of that self-sacrificing and unselfish soldier.

Thus the document implies that all the real estate of the deserved general who commanded for long years a regiment, brigade, division, and corps consisted of “a small stone building” in Odessa. A large part of his debt on a loan rendered to Savoini by the government was discharged by the exchequer “with respect to his notably zealous service and pretty insufficient fortune”... These facts clearly evidence for irreproachable honesty of a untitled Italian, whose well born compatriots would often intentionally pass from the Line to the Guard in order to, in commanding regiments, brigades and divisions, “improve their unsteady affairs with incomes from that”.(10)

Even more expressive in characterizing “service and virtues” of Savoini is the line of his service list which implies that for half a century spent by him in the army he not a single time was in “home vacation”.

There is another notable entry in his formulary list: “Can read and write Russian, Italian, French”. Unlike many foreigners in the Russian service Savoini joined the language and culture of his second homeland. In 1821 he became a Russian subject; the inscription on his grave was done in Russian.

But we'll go back to the Priyutino portraits. Judging by the age of the elderly lady whose image is represented on the watercolor paired to the General's portrait, it was his wife Ludviga Danilovna Savoini. She outlived her husband for a long time: one of the documents of G. D. Golitsinskaya's archive affords an inference that L. D. Savoini did not die before 1850. After her death the portraits probably moved to Yekaterina Yeremeyevna Tenner. D. A. Butyrin, an expert in the family genealogy, informed that at the end of the last century the Tenners became related with the Olives: General Savoini's great-grandson Dmitry Eduardovich Tenner (1869-1921) married Natalya Viviyanovna Olive (1879-1952). It was most probably after that time that the portraits got to the Olives' collection to which their last owner refers.

Savoini, promoted to general for Borodino, was among those heroes of 1812 whose portraits were to decorate the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace. The portraits from the Hermitage and Priyutino show undoubtable similarity, though the painted portrait from J. Dowe's workshop was done at least twelve years before the watercolor: Dowe left Russia in 1828.(11) On the portrait from the “Priyutino”'s collection Savoini looks slightly younger than his age, but a reliable evidence of a contemporary makes us think that the artist whose name is covered with the 'R' monogram succeeded to penetrate into the interior world of his model deeper than the author of the portrait from the Military Gallery.(12) “A fair and strict executor of his duties, Savoini moderated with his kindness the innate obstinacy of his temper and won with that the respect and attachment of his subordinates. His appearance bore the print of his Italian origin. Large black eyes shone with bravery and resoluteness, and the regular features of his face were always animate. Premature gray hair covered his head, which he many times bore to the fight for Russia. Until his lethal disease he always preserved his spirits, and his movements were brisk and swift”{13}.

The portrait in the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace for a long time was considered the only representation of Ye. Ya. Savoini. The watercolor of the “Priyutino” museum thus becomes one more document in the iconography of the heroes of the great saga of 1812.


1) Yeremei Yakovlevich Savoini. Artist under monogram R. Paper, watercolor. 1836. The “Priyutino” Museum.
2) Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin. Portrait by V.L.Borovikovsky. Canvas, oil. 1811. The All-Union Museum of A.S.Pushkin.

Page 34
Yeremei Yakovlevich Savoini. Workshop of J.Dowe. Canvas, oil. Between 1819 and 1828. The Military Gallery of the Winter Palace. The State Hermitage.

Page 35
1) Sign (cross) of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky. The Museum of A. V. Suvorov.
2) Sign (cross) of the Order of St. Vladimir. The Museum of A. V. Suvorov.
Sign (cross) of the Order of St. George. The Museum of A. V. Suvorov.
Sign (cross) of the Order of St. Anne. The Museum of A. V. Suvorov.
3) Golden officer's crosses for participation in the assaults of Izmail and Ochakov. The Museum of A. V. Suvorov.


(1) Derzhavin G.R. Selected Prose. M., 1984. P.203, 213.
(2) Calendar and General Staff of the Russian Empire. Vol.1. St. Petersburg, 1836. P.157. The person of the general was identified as a result of the continuous scanning of that publication.
(3) For more details on Ye. Ya. Savoini see: Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky A. I. The Emperor Alexander I and His Associates. Vol.II. St. Petersburg, 1845.[the sketch "Ye. Ya. Savoini".P.1-5]; The Military Gallery of 1812. St.Petersburg, 1912. No.244. P.215-216. The Formulary List of 1832, abridged. The data on Ye. Ya. Savoini quoted below without references to their sources are obtained in those publications. See also: Kolyubakin B. “Savoini, Ye. Ya.” The Russian Biographical Dictionary. 'Sabaneyev-Smyslov'. St.Petersburg, 1904. P.35-38.
(4) Saitov, V. The Necropolis of St. Petersburg. Vol.IV. St.Petersburg, 1913. P.11. All dates are given according to the Julian calendar.
(5) Langeron, A. F. “The Battle at Frasina” // The Historical Chronicle. 1916. No.10. P.976.
(6) Yermolov, A. P. Memoirs. Pt.1. M., 1865. P.199.
(7) Davydov, D. V. War Notes. M., 1940. P.198.
(8) Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, A. I. op. cit. P.4.
(9) A. S. Pushkin was present at the promotion ceremony on December 6, 1833, and made a note on that event in his diary. See that in: Pushkin, A. S. Complete Collected Works. Vol.XII. M.;Leningrad, 1937- 1959. P.317.
(10) Glinka, V. M., Pomarnatsky, A. V. The Military Gallery of the Winter Palace. Leningrad, 1981. P.27.
(11) On the Priyutino portrait Savoini has a moustache, which was not allowed to the infantry officers and generals until 1832.