The Virgin and Child

Mikhail Vrubel • Icon painting, 1885, 203×87 cm
Digital copy: 2.9 MB
1893 × 3200 px • JPEG
21.4 × 50 cm • 163 dpi
32.1 × 54.2 cm • 150 dpi
16.0 × 27.1 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Icon painting
Subject and objects: Religious scene
Style of art: Byzantine style
Technique: Oil
Materials: Gold plated, Zinc Board
Date of creation: 1885
Size: 203×87 cm
Region: Kiev
Artwork in collection: Smart and Beautiful Natalya Kandaurova
Artwork in selections: 47 selections
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Description of the artwork «The Virgin and Child»

From May to November 1884, Mikhail Vrubel worked on the painting of the Cyril Church in Kiev. “The Virgin and Child” is one of the four images that the artist painted for the iconostasis in 1885. The story of this painting is linked up with the artist's passionate love to the wife of his customer, the mother of three children Emilia Prakhova.

They first met when Vrubel was 28 years old and she was 35. Emilia was a French citizen, although she was born in St. Petersburg. She graduated from the piano class of the Conservatory and took lessons from Franz Liszt. Despite a good education, Emilia was famous for her eccentricity; her descendants called her "a lady with a touch of madness." “Our family knew that it was impossible to upset a granny during a family meal - after all, she could easily pour tea by the collar to someone at the table or throw a cup on the floor. She was a rather domineering person, ”her great-granddaughter, artist Alexandra Prakhova recalled.

According to her, Emilia was flattered by Vrubel’s love, but she never had any feelings for him, because he behaved in a "strange and just childish" way. Once, for example, he came to visit them with a smear of green paint on his nose. To Prakhova’s question about the reason for such make-up, the artist innocently answered “It’s so beautiful!”

And another time, the artist brought Emilia "Oriental Tale", one of his watercolors as a gift, Knowing about Vrubel’s problems with means of subsistence, Prakhova invited him to show it to the famous Kiev philanthropist Ivan Tereshchenko. The ardent admirer was so offended that he simply tore the watercolor to shreds and hastily retreated. A few days later, he arrived with an apology and got his sealed drawing.

At first, the Prakhovs' couple was not very burdened by the antics and feelings of an eccentric artist, but in the end, when his visits to their country house became too frequent, he was sent to Venice to “study Byzantine art”. There Vrubel worked on all four images for the iconostasis of the Cyril Church, and on the “Virgin and Child” as well.

Once, Nikolai Murashko visited him in Venice. Seeing the unfinished grawing begun image of the Virgin, he noticed that her appearance was similar to that of written with their mutual friend, Emilia Prakhova. “It was clearly seen, and I could not help but notice it,” Murashko wrote in his memoirs. Vrubel laughed:
“Did you find out?”
“Yes, only you gave her another expression;” in reality she is an unstoppable screamer, and you gave her a gentle and quiet expression.
“Is she screaming?” No, you don’t know her. Apparently, we had different impressions from the same subject. ”

The prototype of the Child on the lap of the Mother of God was her youngest daughter Olga: she was five years old at that time. It was she who Prakhova entrusted with the order to burn all the Vrubel's letters after her death, and that fact was accepted by some scholars as the evidence of their romance.

Others believe that this relationship made Prakhov to put Vrubel aside from painting the Vladimir Cathedral which was under construction in Kiev, and only small ornamental details were entrusted to the artist. But the opinion of Taisiya Mazyuk, who had been living with the Prakhovs since her youth, refutes these speculations. “The art critic knew the value of this artist,” she said in an interview. - And he said that if it were his will, he would build a temple where only Vrubel would be proposed to paint - such a talent needed other walls. Vrubel did not fit into the company with such traditional artists as Vasnetsov and Nesterov. ” In addition, he was even half a year late with the provision of sketches for the Vladimir's Cathedral.

The author: Natalia Azarenko