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Prince Paul P. Demidoff, 2nd Prince of San Donato  
(Husband to Princess Demidoff) 

Count Nicholas N. Demidoff (1773-1828)  
(Grandfather to Prince Paul P. Demidoff)  

Anatole N. Demidoff, 1st Prince of San Donato (1813-1870) 
(Uncle to Prince Paul P. Demidoff)  
Princess Mathilde Bonaparte Demidoff (1820-1904) 
(Wife to Anatole N. Demidoff) 

Princess Demidoff
(Helene Petrovna Demidova, Princess of San Danto -- 1853-1917)
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio
Oil on canvas 
66 x 38 in.
Jpg: Alexandre G. Tissot Demidoff
(Click on image to Step Closer)

Principality of San Donato was located in what is now greater Florence.  Unfortunately, it no longer exists and the Chateau / Villa di San Donato (thumbnail right) was destroyed during World War II.  

Princess Helene (the subject of Sargent's painting) was the second wife of Prince Paul. After the death of his first wife and after having remarried, Princess Helene encouraged her new husband to leave the Villa di San Donato in 1885 to live in the Villa Pratolino by taking the paggeria (since the original Villa had been lost) remodeling it and renaming it the Villa Demidoff. This is where they were living at the time Sargent painted her -- though it's unclear, to me, if the painting was done at the Villa Demidoff (part of the Villa Pratolino), or in Sargent's studio in London. Both Alexandre Tissot and I are leaning towards Sargent painting it in Italy.[1]  

The Villa Pratolino was originally a Medici Palatial Estate, though the original villa had been lost, what was left of the estate and grounds were preserved today thanks to Prince Paul and Princess Helene.  It is located just north of Florence and it is very probable that Sargent visited there and stayed with them on more than one occasion. 

Other Demidoff Princesses painted by Sargent during his stay must have included Princess Helen's eldest daughter, Auore Pavlona, Princess of San Donato (1873-1904).  

Princess Aurore Pavlona Demidoff (1873-1904) 
(daughter to Princess Helene and Prince Paul) 

The Demidoffs are remembered in Florence to this day and the presence of the monument by Lorenzo Bartolini to Count Nicholas Demidoff in Piazza Demidoff on the banks of the Arno River is a daily reminder of the family's close connection to Florence. 


Special thanks to Alexandre Tissot Demidoff, and the  Demidoff family for sharing with me these images and information -- many of which have never been published. Alexandre has been wonderful friend of the JSS Gallery. 

  • For Information regarding the Demidoff family, you can contact:
    • Alexandre Tissot Demidoff 
      6 Mathews Chase 
      Binfield Bracknell 
      Berkshire RG42 4UR 
From : Alexandre Tissot Demidoff 

The painting [above] left the acclaimed Collection of San Donato in 1925 when, according to the archival records, it was ‘reluctantly' sold at Spinks & Sons in London by Elim P. Demidoff, 3rd Prince of San Donato. Prince Elim, who, at the time of the sale, was living in Greece, was the son of Prince Paul P. Demidoff, 2nd Prince of San Donato, and his first wife, Prince Maria Metscherskii.  

Footnote 1

The information I have doesn't show John traveling to Italy in 1896. In '95 he traveled to Spain and North Africa (that I know of). I don't know why the painting is dated 1895-1896. In '97, without a doubt, he was back in Italy. If the dating is correct and my information is complete it would probably mean the painting was done in London. 


Villa di San Donato 
c. 1820's 
(First palatial estate of the Demidoffs of San Donato) 

Painting depicting the cupola of the Villa di San Donato 

Villa Demidoff 
(part of the Villa Pratolino) 
(second palatial estate of the Demidoffs of San Donato)


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2005 all rights reserved
Created 4/26/2002