PIMEN NIKITICH ORLOV
Portrait of Sofia Nikolaevna Karamzina
signed in Cyrillic and dated 1836? l.r.
oil on canvas
45.5 by 36.5cm, 18 by 14¼in.
The canvas is lined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. This is providing a stable structural support. There are a number of minor deformations within the lining, most notably running intermittently below the upper edge. There is weave interference from the lining process which is particularly visible when the paint surface is inspected in raking light.
The paint surface has a relatively even varnish layer.
There are scattered very slightly raised lines of craquelure, including within the sitter's white dress. These appear entirely stable. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows an uneven fluorescence which appears to be attributable to the degradation and selective cleaning of the varnish layers, including within the table towards the right edge. Inspection under ultraviolet light also shows a number of retouchings, the most significant of which are:
1) an area of retouching following the outline of the sitter's hair and shoulders,
2) an area of retouching on the left side of the sitter's neck and chest and a few small spots on her face,
3) an area of retouching covering the background between the sitter's left arm and her torso, and
4) small spots and lines of retouching within the sitter's white dress including fine lines of strengthening to the sitter's left sleeve.
Other small retouchings are also visible. Due to the uneven fluorescence and the opaque varnish layer covering passages of the composition it is difficult to ascertain the extent of any previous restoration work.
The painting would therefore appear to be in relatively good and stable condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."
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
B.Modzalevsky, 'Iz al'bomnoi stariny', Russkii bibliofil, no.6, 1916, illustrated b/w
L.Bardovskaya, 'Vnov' obretennye portrety Karamzinykh-Meshcherskikh', Nashe Nasledie, 2017, no.122, p.33 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.’
The present lot, depicting Nikolai Karamzin’s daughter Sofia, was painted by Pimen Orlov while he was still a student at the Imperial Academy of Arts and a pupil of the leading 19th century portraitist Karl Briullov. Nikolai Karamzin’s daughter from his first marriage with Elizaveta Ivanovna Protasova, Sofia was made lady-in-waiting to Empress Elizaveta Alexeevna in 1821. Witty, intelligent and well-read, she jointly hosted a literary salon with her stepmother Ekaterina Karamzina.
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.