Lot 495
  • 495

Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel
  • Margarita, study for the decorative panel in the palace of Alexei Vikulovich Morozov
  • signed in Latin l.r.
  • pencil on paper
  • 30 by 10cm., 11 3/4 by 4in.


St Petersburg, The State Russian Museum; Moscow, Manezh, A Time to Gather, February-July 2008, cat.no.42


Y.Petrova, A Time to Gather: Russian Art from Foreign Private Collections, St Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2007, p.86, illustrated

Catalogue Note

This work was executed in 1896.

Commissioned by Alexei Morozov, Vrubel completed five vast panels on the subject of Gounod's opera Faust in 1896, for the Gothic study in Morozov's palace on Vvedensky Street in Moscow which was designed by Fyodor Shekhtel and built the year before. The completion of these panels marked a seminal date of unrivalled creativity in the life of this troubled artist.

The panels showed The Flight of Faust and Mephistopheles (The State Tretyakov Gallery) and Faust and Margarita in the garden (location unknown) which were commissioned later and also completed in 1896 whilst Vrubel was honeymooning in Switzerland. The main work was a triptych, each panel 5 metres high, Faust and Pupil, Faust and the central panel, Margarita (all in the State Tretyakov Gallery). The triptych was completed before Vrubel departed for Switzerland whilst he was living in the flat of the collector, Konstantin Artsiybushev.

For the model of Margarita, Vrubel used his then fiancĂ©e Nadezhda Zabela, one of the leading opera singers of the day who sang the role for a season at the Kharkov Opera House in the same year not long after their marriage. According to M.A. Dulov, Vrubel accompanied his wife, even changing her costumes to ensure that they were exactly like those shown in the final painting.

Originally all three panels in the triptych were five metres high but in order to fit them into Morozov's office, Vrubel was forced to shorten the central panel, of Margarita, by nearly a metre. From Lena Zhukova's assessment, it is clear that three studies existed (one is in the collection of B.A. Chernogubov in Moscow) but that this is the final version, squared by the artist and used as the study for the completed panel.

The couple were well suited and the artist, despite the unusual nature of their first meeting, described below by Nadezhda Ivanovna, saw her as his Muse and soul mate. From this date on Nadezhda Ivanovna became one of the central themes of Vrubel's work, Tsarevna Lebed being the most famous example. Indeed the offered piece is probably the first representation of the artist's Muse in his entire oeuvre.

"I remember I was standing in the wings during a break at an early morning rehearsal and was struck and slightly shocked to find some man had rushed up to me and was kissing my hand, exclaiming "What a marvellous voice!". He was always so sensitive to the sound of voices. It was so dark on stage he could scarcely even see me, but the sound of my voice entranced him."

The relationship was marked with tragedy with Vrubel's fragile mental health, the death of their son Savva in 1903, the artist's incarceration in an asylum in 1905 and death five years later. Nadezhda herself did not long outlive him, dying in 1913 at the young age of 45.

Pictures of this historical importance by the key artist of the 19th-20th century, Mikhail Vrubel, are extremely rare.