Timoleon Carl von Neff

Born: 1805, Mödders (Estonia)
Died: 1876, St Petersburg

Painter, draughtsman, teacher. Born at Mödders in Estonia (1805). Illegitimate son of Heinrich Zoege von Manteuffel (uncle of Gerhard von Kügelgen and Carl von Kügelgen) and Félicité Neff (French governess at Püssi Manor). Studied under Carl von Kügelgen at Küti Manor near Viru-Jaagupi in Estonia (early 1820s) and Friedrich Hartmann Barisien at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Dresden (1824). Awarded a fellowship to Italy (1825). Invited by Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna to St Petersburg (1826), where he taught drawing to Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna and Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna. Appointed court painter to Tsar Nicholas I (1832). Painted genre scenes, bathers, nymphs and portraits of members of the imperial family and upper classes. Married Louise von Kaulbars (1838), who gave birth to two children – Mary von Neff (1839–1919) and Heinrich von Neff (1841–1906). Painted icons for the Gothic Chapel in Alexandria, Minor Chapel of the Winter Palace and St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, Lutheran and Uspenski Cathedrals in Helsinki, Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche der heiligen Elisabeth in Wiesbaden and the Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas in Nice (1834–55). Worked in Italy (1835–37) and studied local types and customs across the Russian Empire (1837). Academician (1839), professor of history painting (1849), second-class professor (1855), first-class professor (1865). Visited Italy (1842–43) and elected an honorary member of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence (1846). Taught at the Imperial Academy of Arts (from 1855), curator of paintings at the Imperial Hermitage (from 1864). Bought Piera Manor in the town of Wesenberg (now Rakvere) in north-eastern Estonia (1851) and Münkenhof Castle near Ladikfer (1861), where he assembled a large collection of art, including copies of such famous sculptures as Venus de Milo, Crouching Venus and Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women. Rebuilt Münkenhof in the Neo-Renaissance style (1866–72) and was awarded a marble staircase by Tsar Alexander II. Died in St Petersburg and buried at the Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery (1876).

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