30 May 2020
Before the Wedding, signed and dated 1879.
Oil on canvas, 89 by 71.5 cm.
Provenance: Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Alexander Morozov’s Before the Wedding offered here at auction perfectly reveals his talent as a genre artist. He did not leave many works as his legacy and they are a great rarity on the art market because they are largely held by the major museums of Russia.
It is known that the artist’s pictures, as soon as they first appeared, were warmly received by critics and public alike. He became the one to carry on the tradition left by Pavel Fedotov, the founding father of genre painting in Russia. By contrast with Fedotov, however, didacticism and caricature are absent in Morozov’s works. Neither did he join the Peredvizhniki, avoiding in his art an exposure of the ills of society.
The subjects for Morozov’s work were prompted by life itself. Thus, the painting Before the Wedding depicts a touching moment in a conversation between father and daughter. The artist depicts the lifestyle of a merchant’s home in detail, dwelling on objects in the room, particularly the icons in the “icon corner”, the lamp and the open book on the table, which emphasise the idea of worldly wisdom being passed down from one generation to another. The father holds his daughter firmly by the hand, giving her guidance on the threshold of matrimony. The young woman concentrates as she takes in his words, with eyes lowered, as though in obedience to him and fate as it is preordained, and at the same time thinks about her own. The ritual is observed, the guidance is given and accepted, but what the reality will be is not known. The mother, carrying a tray, has halted by the door and her pose expresses impatience: the time has come to go to the guests and the bridegroom.
The figure of the bride is made to stand out using colour and light, yet the characters are portrayed interacting closely together and the roles they play in developing the narrative are of equal value, as in another well-known picture by Morozov, Coming out of a church in Pskov (1864). The action is imbued with optimism — in the small dark room where it unfolds the door is wide open and the bright sunlight breaking in seems to symbolise a bright future, awaiting the young woman.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.