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Painting, 1883, 75.5×99 cm

Description of the artwork «Unknown»

"Who is she?" – asked his. "Unknown"– succinctly answered Kramskoy. Courtesan? The concubine of a high-ranking person? And maybe, beloved of the Emperor? Or is it a literary heroine? The artist's daughter? Admit immediately, the exact answer we do not know. After Kramskoy left a lot of diaries and letters. Not a single mention of the work on this painting in them is not found.

11-th exhibition of the Wanderers is not recommended to bring young boys and young girls. The fact that among the populist, accusatory paintings, like a visitor from another world, mingled with "Unknown" archaeology. Emphasized elegantly and richly dressed beautiful woman, whose gaze lies the arrogance and something else hard verbalization. "A courtesan in a wheelchair!" – without a deep search of the meanings of the art critic Vladimir Stasov. Public opinion this version is mainly supported because it is because of this picture was erected a kind of age limit 16+. Indecent!

The plot is simple: a frosty morning with fashionably dressed lady walks in the stroller along the Nevsky prospect. Behind her you can see Anichkov Palace, her coat style "Skobelev", fine Swedish gloves of working capital, similar to the suede side of the leather, elegant hat "Francis" with an ostrich feather – this only came into Vogue. A slim figure and a face that is impossible to take your eyes off. But this woman's eyes – is the main mystery of the painting. Those incredible shining eyes, it is called Russian Giocondo. The mystery of the creation of Leonardo – her smile, the most amazing "Unknown" archaeology – her eyes. Deep, almost black, the eye of their haughty and yet helpless, arrogant, but read contempt insecurity and vulnerability. Beautiful face frankly sensual, attracts and at the same time creates distance.

It saw Anna Karenina, Nastasya Filippovna, and even the "Stranger" of the Unit, although the poem was written much later. What types of real life? The most common version voiced by Stasov. Cocotte, courtesan, kept woman. In favor of this – highlighted a luxury outfit. The upper light already introduced in the fashion of "refined simplicity": the nobles were ruined, and why a particular style was not the pursuit of fashion too rapidly. At the same time, the merchant's daughter and the courtesan often could afford "the best". And since entrance into high society had been closed to them, they carefully dressed up especially for walking. In favor of this version and found fifty years later after the painting the very nature of woman which is easier to make for girls of easy virtue: it's vulgar, puffy, contempt in her eyes, but the puzzles in the final version, probably not. But Dmitry Andreev, the expert on costumes of the era of Alexander II, says that the lady on the final version of the film not only richly dressed, but with impeccable taste. Nouveaux riches and their women do not dress up...

In this unknown saw the ballerina Ekaterina Chislova – mistress of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, and ballerina Anna Kuznetsova – kept woman of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich. But the most spectacular version is that Kramskoy wrote Catherine Dolgorukov, the former for many years sweetheart and after the Empress ' death became the wife of Alexander II. Bold eyes and Anichkov Palace, according to this version, call not taking her to the society and the heir of the Emperor, lived in this Palace. It is technically possible: the artist taught the children of Emperor painting. When Alexander II was murdered, Catherine sent abroad. To put it the portrait of Kramskoy could not – it meant very serious problems in the relations with Alexander III, who Dolgoruky could not stand. So he allegedly changed facial features, and quite rightly find the similarity with the artist's daughter Sophia. From time to time art history circles rocked by the information that somewhere flashed the letter of Alexander II to his beloved, in which he talks about the ordered Kramskoy portrait, but officially this letter was not included anywhere and no evidence that "Stranger" written with Catherine Dolgoruky, no.

A lot of melodramatic versions, trying to shed light on the name of the lady in a fashionable hat "Francis". The story of the beautiful peasant woman Matryona, Savvichna, which married the noble Bestuzhev, after left her, and she died, actually deserves to be the plot of the series a couple hundred episodes. Minus the traditional one is the lack of any evidence that the painting depicts a girl.

We don't know the name, but there is something we can claim. Kramskoy has told us a story about loneliness, about the confrontation between an individual and the crowd, the contempt, which returns to the society he despised. These themes we find in other works of the artist (1, 2).

Another interesting observation: the picture painted by Repin abroad "Paris cafe"(Ilya Efimovich then, too, the Wanderers, and specifically of Vladimir Stasov went to a lot). Repin the story does not hide, it does not have to guess the opposition to women (in the fall? the flappers? unknown, but something is wrong with her!), defying society and activeuser her contempt by society. Even outwardly heroine similar, although bold women Repin in the eyes, perhaps, there is hidden suffering, hidden behind a haughty gaze "Unknown".

It's also the story about the incredible power of beauty. In the "Unknown" especially sharply embodied the paradox of the talent of Ivan Kramskoy. He had well-defined views as to the purpose of art, and the ideal woman – pure mother, wife, moral, spiritual, without flair perverse sensuality. The paradox is that his life and his paintings often were at odds with the proclaimed ideas. A rebel and a Democrat at the end of my life looking for ways to improve relations with the Academy and painted portraits of the Royal family. A supporter of purity and morality married to a woman until he cohabited with a married man and was abandoned by him. Wrote many family portraits and women, whose appearance in the first place drew the attention of spiritual beauty, went down in history as the author of sensual, luxurious "Unknown" – whoever she was, the symbol of the moral person is not exactly looks like.

Maybe this disorder in the world and the life was the reason for such an early death of archaeology? I wonder what he wrote if he did not embed himself in the ideology and not created in huge quantities so great and not so favorite custom portraits? The subjunctive does not imply confident answers, but somehow it seems that part of this not find the answer is "Unknown".

Author: Alain Esaulova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Realism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1883

Size: 75.5×99 cm

Artwork in selections: 98 selections

Exhibitions history