4 June 2014
Portrait of a Seated Lady, signed and dated 1883.
Oil on canvas, 121.5 by 74 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Germany.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
The work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Konstantin Makovsky being prepared by Dr Elena Nesterova.
Konstantin Makovsky, the brilliant portraitist of the Petersburg nobility, best celebrated for his portraits of beautiful women. Devoting his career to painting invariably beautiful female contemporaries, the artist developed his own style of portraiture which brought him great success. Portrait of a Seated Lady is an excellent example of Makovsky's skill for the 1880s. The pictorial and emotional resolution of the picture is not only characteristic of Makovsky's trademark style, but perfection in its genre.
The type of southern beauty exhibited by the model in this picture was particularly favoured by Makovsky in the 1880s and 1900s, when he painted many portraits of Italian and gypsy women. Reproductions of these works were immensely popular in the artist's own life time. The subject of this picture is, however, undoubtedly real and painted from life. The young Caucasian princess or Mediterranean beauty clearly took her role as artist's model very seriously, as can be seen from her strained posture and look of concentration. Makovsky successfully associates her figure, sitting in profile, with the vertical format of the canvas. The artist may not aspire to psychological insight, but he skilfully imparts a romantic tone to the entire composition, and demonstrates an excellent sense for the importance of detail and its structural significance. The gauzy material covering the girl's wide, rose-trimmed neckline emphasizes the pearl-white of her breast, combining formality with intimacy while retaining the immediacy of the image. The burning eyes, dark hair and eyebrows, the colourful upholstery and varied shades of the light-coloured dress and shimmering pearls are all executed with careful attention to the overall harmony and the variety of textures.
By using certain stylistic elements of the old masters and the dark academic tones of the background, Makovsky imbues this romanticized image of a contemporary woman with tradition. At the same time, the artist enlivens his painting with its animated, relaxed execution, letting the surface of the canvas breathe.
Makovsky painted most of his portraits in a single sitting. His son, the prominent art critic, Sergei Makovsky, recalled how his father worked on his portraits at a rapid and inspired pace: “...with an immediacy, as if without thinking, as if the colours mixed themselves on the palette and the brushes flew over the canvas under their own volition, leaving strokes in just the right places...”
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.