5 June 2013
Portrait of Anna Grigorievna Ermolova with Her Children, signed "Zakharov.Da=/dayurtskii.-" and dated "18 IV/X 40".
Oil on canvas, 67 by 54.5 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Ya.M. Shapiro, Moscow.
Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the experts L. Markina and I. Lomize.
Exhibited: Vystavka P.Z. Zakharova-Chechentsa, Museum of V.A. Tropinin, Moscow, December 1986 - June 1987 (label on the stretcher).
Literature: N. Shabanyants, “Poiski i nakhodki. Taina zagadochnykh bukv”, Groznenskiy rabochiy, No. 266, 19 November 1978, illustrated and mentione
T. Mazaeva, The Artist Petr Zakharov (Chechenets), PhD thesis, Leningrad, 1982, pp. 334–335, illustrated.
L. Markina, “Raboty khudozhnika Petra Zakharova v sobranii Tretyakovskoi galerei”, The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine, No. 3, 2011, p. 90, illustrated.
Related Literature: N. Shabanyants, Akademik zhivopisi P.Z. Zakharov, Grozny, 1974, the work is mentioned on p. 16.
Portraits of members of the family of General Petr Ermolov occupy a special place in the oeuvre of the remarkable 19th century artist Petr Zakharov. His work has long been dispersed among the major museum collections – the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Tropinin Museum and others – but is ex- tremely rarely encountered in private collections. Accordingly, the appearance on the market of this portrait of Anna Grigorievna Ermolova, which comes from the famous Moscow collector Yan Moiseevich Shapiro, may be regarded as a unique phenomenon.
The political story of the Caucasus and the private story of the Ermolov family were closely intertwined in the life and work of the artist who, academics believe, served as the prototype for Lermontov’s poem Mtsyri (The Novice). Neither his original name, nor his exact date of birth is known. The boy had been found in 1819 as a three year-old in the Chechen village Dadi-Yurt, destroyed by Russian troops in the course of a punitive expedition. He was brought to the Commander-in-Chief, Aleksey Petrovich Ermolov who ordered the army medics to do everything possible to save the wounded child and, when the boy was better, handed over his upbringing to his Cossack batman Zakhar Nedonosov, from whom the future artist Petr Zakharovich Zakharov received his surname and patronymic.
Soon after military operations ended, the boy’s upbringing was taken over by Major General Petr Nikolaevich Ermolov, a cousin of the Proconsul of the Caucasus. He soon noticed his adopted son’s propensity for drawing and before long sent Petr to St Petersburg for artistic training. On graduating from the Academy and receiving the title “free artist”, he settled in St Petersburg, where he painted commissioned portraits, signing them “Zakharov of the Chechens” or “Zakharov the Chechen”. All his life the artist remained devoted to his guardian family and he created a whole gallery of images of the Ermolovs – a portrait of Petr Nikolaevich Ermolov, a portrait of his children, the portrait here at auction of his wife Anna Grigorievna Ermolova, née Obolenskaya, with the children, a group portrait of the Ermolov family and, lastly, the famous portrait of Aleksey Petrovich Ermolov, that hero of the 1812 war and Proconsul of the Caucasus who had once decided the fate of the captive Chechen boy. It was for this portrait that Zakharov received the title of Academician.
If we are to believe the words of a contemporary of Zakharov, “Briullov regarded him as the best portrait painter after himself”. Portrait of Anna Grigorievna Ermolova with Her Children, however, is a work that certainly bears the stamp of “The Great Karl’s” influence. The portrait’s composition with its mass of carefully-rendered details, despite a certain constraint in the treatment of the children, is distinguished by its exquisite pearlised palette and may be considered one of the artist’s best works.
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.