8 June 2011
Portrait of Alexandra Levchenko, signed and dated 1934.
Pastel on paper, laid on canvas, 46 by 38 cm.
Literature: E. Yakovleva, "Aleksandra Levchenko - parizhsakaya model' K.A. Somova", Antikvarnoe Obozrenie, No.1, 2011, p. 9, illustrated.
Executed in pastel, this elegant and sensual portrait of Alexandra Levchenko is a particularly fine work by Konstantin Somov. Somov worked with equal skill in oil, gouache and watercolour, and his pastels are no less interesting or expressive. Their particular attractiveness lies in the extraordinary lightness of their execution which gives a sense of the airiness of the surroundings, softness of the lighting and bestows an inimitable romantic lyricism upon his model.
This portrait of the artist's Parisian model, Alexandra Levchenko, belongs to Konstantin Somov's famous cycle of portraits created between 1934 and 1937. All that is known of Levchenko is limited to a few brief references to her in Somov's diaries and notebooks. Three of four variations on portraits of Cécile de Volanges, the heroine of Choderlos de Laclos' novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, are titled Alexandra Levchenko. Completed in 1934, the portrait of Cécile de Volanges was commissioned by a close friend of the artist, the collector and patron M.V. Braikevitch. That Alexandra Levchenko posed for other portraits by Somov is known for certain thanks to his diaries and notebooks. The image of this striking young woman could not be more in keeping with Somov's ideas about 18th century courtliness, which for the great World of Art member was the embodiment of gallantry and romantic reverie.
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