Portrait of Petr and Nikolai Meshchersky
signed in Latin m.r.
oil on canvas
45.5 by 37cm, 18 by 14½in.
The canvas has been strip-lined. There are frame abrasions with minor associated paint loss along the edges. There are areas of fine craquelure, which is slightly raised in places, but appears stable at present. There is a light layer of surface dirt with spots of dirt in places. Inspection under UV light reveals some minor spots of retouching scattered in the background as well as an unevenly discoloured layer of varnish. Held in a gold painted wooden frame. Unexamined out of frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Commissioned by Prince Petr Meshchersky
Thence by descent to Ekaterina Petrovna Kleinmichel (née Meshcherskaya; 1843-1924)
Thence by descent to her daughter Maria Vladimirovna von Etter (née Kleinmichel; 1872-1950)
Acquired from the von Etter family by the parents of the present owner in the 1960s
L.Bardovskaya, 'Vnov' obretennye portrety Karamzinykh-Meshcherskikh', Nashe Nasledie, 2017, no.122, p.32 illustrated
The first half of the 19th century in Russia was marked by the political turbulence of the Decembrist uprising, the rise of sentimentalism and romantic nationalism, and the rapid development of Russian arts and literature. The Karamzin family played an important role in this cultural and political revival.
Of the six portraits presented for sale, five are of the children of Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin – Sofia, Andrei, Alexander, Vladimir and Ekaterina – and the sixth is of Ekaterina’s husband, and Karamzin’s son-in-law, Petr Meshchersky with their son Nikolai. The similar format portraits were executed by two different artists – Jean-Auguste Bard in Italy circa 1835 and Pimen Orlov in Russia between 1836 and 1839 and remained in the collection of the Karamzin family until the middle of the 20th century.
Nikolai Karamzin was a renowned writer and historian who laid the foundation for the future of Russian literature. Alexander Pushkin, a great admirer, was first introduced to Karamzin as an adolescent in 1816. Karamzin’s most famous work, a twelve-volume History of the Russian State, provided the main source for Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov and had a profound influence on the young poet’s style. In addition to Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov and Vasily Zhukovsky were all close friends with Karamzin’s children and frequently attended the literary salon hosted by Ekaterina Andreevna Karamzina and her step-daughter Sofia. According to the 19th century literary critic Ivan Panaev, ‘To be granted literary fame in high society, it was necessary to be admitted to the salon of Mrs Karamzina – the widow of the historian. That was where diplomas for literary talents were issued.’
This portrait of Karamzin’s son-in-law Prince Petr Meshchersky and grandson Nikolai was commissioned from the French artist Jean-Auguste Bard by Meschersky during the family’s visit to Italy in 1835. The sittersare depicted against a backdrop of classical monuments, a composition popular with 19th century travellers, eager to procure mementos of their Grand Tours.
According to the famous Pushkin scholar Boris Modzalevsky, at the dawn of the Revolution the portraits of Karamzin’s two daughters, Ekaterina and Sofia, belonged to his granddaughter, Ekaterina Kleinmichel, who emigrated to Finland in 1916. These two portraits, along with the other works from the present group, remained with Karamzin’s descendants in Finland until the 1960s, when they were acquired by the parents of the present owner.