L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"A new kind of woman": well-bred and educated ladies, the "Smolnyanki" series by Levitsky, 1772-76.

Ekaterina Ivanovna Molchanova (1762-1813), 1776.

The Smolny Institute was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 as the Society for the Education of Noble Maidens, and was Russia's first educational establishment for women. It would continue to function under the personal patronage of the succeeding empress consorts until just before the revolution of 1917. Levitsky's celebrated “Smolyanki” series, comprising seven full-length portraits of young ladies then attending the Smolny Institute, was painted over the course of five years on a commission from the Empress.

Ekaterina Khruschova (1758-) and Princess Ekaterina Khovanskaya (1758-1813), 1773.
Natalia Semyonovna Borshcheva (1758-1843), 1776.
Princess Nastasia Mikhailovna Davidova (b. 1764) and Feodosia Stepanovna Rzhevskaya (1760-1795), 1772.
Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova (1758-1839), 1773.
Glafira Ivanovna Alimova (1758-1826), 1776.
(The only one of the seven for which I was unable to find an acceptable image.)
Aleksandra Petrovna Levshina (1758-1782), 1775.


Dmitry Grigoryevich Levitsky (May 1735, Kiev -17 April 1822, St. Petersburg), Russian-Ukrainian artist, the most important Russian portrait painter of his day. The son of a priest who was also an amateur artist, he was first taught by his father. In 1758 he went to St. Petersburg to continue his studies with the well-known artist Alexei Antropov; five years later he began his independent career. The exhibition of the Academy of Arts in 1770, at which he exhibited six portraits, was the turning point that marked his rise to prominence. In the 1770s and 1780s he was at the peak of his fame, with constant commissions from the aristocracy and the Imperial court. Until 1787 he also taught a class in portrait painting at the Academy of Arts. But by the end of the century, though, his work had gone out of style, his commissions slowed dramatically, and he began to suffer financial hardship. He lived alone and became more spiritually minded. In 1807, in a charitable move, he was asked to return to the Academy to be a member of its council. But then he began to lose his sight; in 1812 he painted his last work. He died ten years later, impoverished.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this series in its entirety. I've seen most of these separately, but seeing them together gives a whole new context. I also find the conceit of the lifted apron pose, charming, especially since none of these ladies ever did a lick of work requiring an apron, even such useless, but lovely aprons as these.