The pictorial program of this intriguing portrait reflects the sitter's meteoric rise as a military commander and his personal search for a pedigree. The oval reliefs show the Justice of Trajan (right) and Alexander the Great and Hephaestion at the tent of Darius (left). Hephaestion's friendship with Alexander (who happened to share a first name with Menshikov) is meant to underscore Menshikov's service to his master and close friend, Peter the Great. After the emperor's death in 1725, his widow, Catherine, assumed power and virtually entrusted Menshikov with ruling Russia. Upon her death in 1727, Menshikov's opponents instigated a political rebellion. Menshikov, who had been knighted in 1703 and received the rank of prince in 1705, was stripped of his possessions and title and exiled to northern Siberia, where he died in poverty.Writing about this object, acquired expressly at his wish, in the Fall 1996 Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Philippe de Montebello remarked: "Most notable among the sculptures are two . . . striking pieces in wood. [One is] a highly original portrait of a man with an unforgettable physiognomy and peruke, the bust of a military commander. . . . Both purchases were made on the basis of quality above else. The bust, in fact, is of unknown authorship and subject but also of clearly superior workmanship and invention, and so we determined not to lose the chance to acquire it: we have, after all, all the time in the world in which to study the piece and learn its origin and sculptor."