The apogee of Valentin Serov’s wonderful gift to paint portraits was the painting of 1899 “Portrait of Botkina”. The work received public recognition of European bohemians and connoisseurs of secular portrait art. The World Exhibition in the French capital of 1900 recognized the author’s right to the Grand Prix.
Why is the portrait of Sofya Botkina amazing? The artist departed from the tradition of writing secular faces in their self-confident arrogance and solemn pomp. The figure of the young wife of collector Botkin looks fragile, defenseless and modest.
It seems that the baroque sofa on which the model sat, and her entire beautiful outfit with a full set of gold jewelry are alien to the identity of this woman. The sofa looks inappropriately large and pretentiously tasteless, with its pomp and high cost.
The model sits on one edge, almost on the edge of the furniture. To tear out the personality depicted from the surrounding background in this way is the portraitist’s brilliant idea. Color helps to fully embody this idea. Background and floor are in muted brown, gray and bluish tones. The sofa is navy blue. All attention is automatically focused on the delicate and beautiful Sophia. Her slim, collected body is dressed in a yellowish dress, covered with pink buds.
A small dog next to a lady is just a tribute to fashion, or maybe the command of a husband of a married woman. In the eyes of the heroine, you can think about her spiritual loneliness. Immersed in himself, a thoughtful look is modestly downcast and directed past the picture.
The decorativeness and brilliance of the objects of the picture dutifully fade before the author illuminates the heroine’s soul world. The background and everything substantive on the canvas involuntarily fades into the background, and the tender sadness in the eyes of the young woman makes the audience imbued with participation in Sofia Botkina, a lady from centuries irrevocably gone into oblivion.
Petrov Vodkin Herring