Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky, 1757-1825
- Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky
- Portrait of Ekatarina Alexeevna Steinbok
- oil on metal
The collection of B.N. and A.A. Chicheriny, Karaul
Private European Collection
Stolitsa I usadba, No.11, 1 May 1914, p.9 (illustrated)
T.V. Alexeeva, Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky and Russian Culture Abroad in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975, p. 39, listed as No.88 'Portrait of an Unknown Lady, possibly Ekaterina Alexeevna Steinbok, née Dyakova, wife of N.A.Steinbok'
This work was authenticated by Tatyana V. Alexeevna in 1984
Portrait of Ekaterina Steinbok is a rare Borovikovsky masterpiece to come to the market. Originally from the sumptuous art collection of Professor Boris Nikolaevich Chicherin (1828-1904) which was dispersed in the twentieth century, it is one of three recorded works by Borovikovsky to have been in Chicherin’s collection (fig 1).
Borovikovsky initially trained as an icon painter in his native Ukraine, before deciding to move to St. Petersburg in 1788. He developed the technique of small-sized portraiture and succeeded in raising it to the level of an independent genre. This new format allowed Borovikovsky to exploit the delicate style of the miniature while breaking away from the strict conventions of formal portraiture. By the end of the eighteenth century, small portraits painted on a variety of surfaces such as ivory, copper and card had become popular gifts for family and friends.
Borovikovsky’s portrait is believed to have formed part of a commission of family portraits from the poet Vasily Vasilevich Kapnist (1758-1823) one of Borovikovsky’s most active supporters and acknowledged as having launched his career as a fashionable society portraitist. Ekaterina Steinbok was the sister of Kapnist’s wife, Aleksandra Alekseevna Dyakova, whom Borovikovsky had painted in the 1780s. Kapnist was so pleased with Aleksandra’s portrait that he arranged for Borovikovsky to paint the other women in her family as well.
Borovikovsky’s success resulted from his ability to respond to the demand for good likenesses in the Sentimental style, epitomised by his portrait of Vasily Kapnist, which is considered to be one of his finest (fig.2). As with the offered lot, Borovikovsky’s ability to capture the emotional nuances in his sitter’s expression lends the work a humanism close to that accomplished by Elizabeth Vigée le Brun.
The overall pastel tones of his palette achieve a translucency reminiscent of painted porcelain. His subject leans forward and, by mirroring the oval shape of the metal with the pose of his sitter, Borovikovsky creates a sense of overall harmony and great intimacy. Particularly skilful is the rendition of his sitter’s clothes, the fine fabric of her gown and attention to accessories, since it is in these details that Borovikovsky distinguished himself from the work of master portrait painters Dmitry Levitsky and Fedor Rokotov.