Mikhail Vrubel • Painting, 1899, 106×124 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Mythological scene
Style of art: Symbolism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1899
Size: 106×124 cm
Artwork in collection: The world of art Inna Lostman
Artwork in selections: 13 selections

Description of the artwork «Valkyrie»

Mikhail Vrubel's painting "The Valkyrie" - portrait of a Russian noblewoman and patroness of the arts, Princess Maria Tenisheva. She was seriously interested in painting and even studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. In addition, she sponsored the publication of the magazine "World of Art"She collected watercolors of Russian masters, which she later donated to the State Russian Museum.

Vrubel's Vacation
Together with her second husband, Prince Vyacheslav Tenishev, Maria arranged creative evenings at their home in St. Petersburg, where composers and artists visited: Scriabin, Roerich, Vasnetsov and others. And Pyotr Tchaikovsky accompanied her on the piano when Tenisheva performed romances of his authorship. "Vrubel and I were great pals, she wrote about her friendship with the artist. - He was an educated, intelligent, sympathetic man of genius, who, to the shame of our contemporaries, was not understood and not appreciated. I was his ardent admirer and treasured his kind, friendly attitude to me; such talents are born once in a hundred years, and they are proud of posterity.

Tenisheva invited the artist and his wife to spend the summer months in the Orlov Province on her estate in Khotylevo. Vrubel benefited from living in the rural wilderness, and worked extensively and productively, creating not only paintings, but also a watercolour project for the church in Talashkin, where another Tenishev estate was located, as well as drawings of instruments for the princess' balalaika workshop.

So that Vrubel's wife, the opera singer Nadezhda Zabela, could rehearse, he proposed composer and conductor Boris Yanovsky to keep them company: "My wife and I will spend the summer in the Orlov Province at the estate of Princess Tenisheva alone: so I suggest that you share our retreat with your wife: our road, views, walks and instrument are magnificent.

Yanovsky accepted the invitation and first they set off for Talashkino near Smolensk. There was the ancestral estate of a close friend of Tenisheva, Princess Ekaterina Svyatopolk-Chetvertinskaya. In 1893 the Tenishevs repurchased the estate, but left the management of affairs to Catherine. The friends worked together to create an "ideological estate", an educational center dedicated to popular artistic culture and the development of agriculture.

Flight of the Valkyries
Thanks to Yanovsky's recollections we have an opportunity to get an idea of the creative atmosphere that reigned in Talashkino. "Luxurious nature, complete freedom of action, merriment, noise - everything breathed with life and at the same time could not help affecting the mood, - he recalled. - The society, in which artists, entertainers and musicians played a leading part, the discussions and debates about art and everyone was occupied with solving some artistic problem, etc., were more reminiscent of Italy at the time of the Renaissance than of nineteenth-century Russia. Vrubel painted here a portrait of Princess Tenisheva, showing her in the guise of the Valkyrie. A magnificent, powerful work!"

It is not known why the artist chose the image of a warlike maiden from Scandinavian mythology for the portrait of his patroness. At that time he was fond of mythological subjects, which is also reflected in the paintingPan"The Valkyrie was written at almost the same time as the Valkyrie. Perhaps he associated the princess with the daughters of Odin because of her passionate and enthusiastic nature, with which she brought her ideas to life.

Legend has it that Valkyries escort fallen warriors to Valhalla, their heavenly resting place. They carry them honey at dinner, and sometimes even determine the outcome of the coming battle. Vrubel depicted the princess in traditional Valkyrian attire - a helmet with wings and a dress with a fur cape, stylized as armor. The heroine of the portrait has a strong-willed face, calm gaze and imperious posture. Like other works by the artist of that period, the picture is filled with mystical aura and enigmatic atmosphere of the evening twilight.

"Valkyrie" falls into the collection of an engineer and philanthropist Mikhail Vasilievich Brajkevichwho's been putting together the work Serebryakova, Somova, Serova and other artists. In 1921, together with other paintings by the collector, it was transferred to the Odessa Museum of Art, where to this day it remains a jewel in the collection of Russian masters.

Author: Natalia Azarenko