Count Anatole Nikolaievich Demidoff (1813 – 1870) was born in Russia the son of Count Nikolai Nikitich Demidoff and Baroness Elisabeta Alexandrovna Stroganova. He grew up in Paris and served briefly as a diplomat in Paris, Rome and Venice. Following the death of his Father in 1828 Demidoff rarely visited Russia, an attitude which alienated him from Tsar Nicholas I.
Demidoff was an enthusiastic art collector and he inherited his father’s art collection which was housed at the Villa San Donato near Florence. Some of the art works collected by Demidoff include: ‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’ by Paul Delaroche and ‘The Death of Poussin’ by Francois Marius Granet. He commissioned Karl Briullov’s ‘The Last Day of Pompei’ as well as paintings by Eugene Delacroix and watercolours by Richard Parkes Bonnington and Theodore Gericault. His collection was split up following public sales in Paris, the first in 1863 and the second shortly before his death in 1870.
Demidoff was a great admirer of Napoleon I of France and built a museum below the house in Elba where Napoleon had lived in during his first exile. In 1839 he met Napoleon’s younger brother Jerome Bonaparte and a marriage between Demidoff and Jerome’s daughter, Mathilde-Letizia Bonaparte (1820 – 1904) was arranged. They were married on 1 November 1840; their marriage was not a happy one with both parties taking lovers, Demidoff taking Valentine de Sainte-Aldegonde and Mathilde-Letizia taking Count Emilien Nieuwerkerke. They were separated from 1843 and in 1846 Mathilde-Letizia went to Paris to be with Nieuwerkerke taking the jewels from her dowry with her, additionally a tribunal in St Petersburg ordered Demidoff to pay her an annual pension of 200,000 Francs.
Following the separation Demidoff increased his charitable donations, possibly in an attempt to improve his social standing. He founded orphanages and hospitals and gave 1 million roubles to help finance the Crimean War. He died on the 30 April 1870 in Paris from pneumonia.