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What Vasily Perov actually told in the painting "The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant House"
What Vasily Perov actually told in the painting "The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant House"

Perov's paintings are always an abundance of important social themes, the plots of which are chosen very subtly and wisely. Not every realist artist reflected the theme of child labor, the theme of alcoholism, religious schism, wealthy church ministers, and, of course, the theme of acute social inequalities. All this was touched upon by Perov in his magnificent works. The latter motive is reflected in the famous work of Perov - "The Arrival of the Governess in the Merchant House." What problems did the artist manage to raise in his work?

Vasily Perov and his work

Vasily Perov was the first in Russian art to demonstrate on his canvases the true picture of peasant life (with poverty, hunger, grief and injustice). Perov's paintings are the author's artistic anger, his pervading palette, compassion. And all this, of course, does not leave the viewer indifferent. Perov is a keen observer of the life of ordinary people. His compositions are simple and clear, his paintings are expressive and precise. Perov's palette is limited: he is a master of tonal painting, sometimes almost monochromatic, pastel. There is only one work by Perov, which critics found too colorful (unusual for the artist's brush) - "The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant House." And it is important that it is replete not only with colors, but also with significant social problems.


What we see on the canvas is what the title of the work reflects. We see the culminating moment - the arrival of the governess to the merchant's house, which aroused considerable interest among all household members (from family members to domestic servants). The analysis should start with a consideration of the gestures and emotions of the characters and how exactly each character in the picture received the guest.

"Arrival of the governess to the merchant house"


Perov portrayed the merchant as a well-to-do, well-fed adult man of about 50. During the arrival of the girl, the hero is in home clothes (a velvet crimson robe, which he did not bother to change to a more decent outfit and therefore has to be covered with his hand). The merchant invited her to his house to teach his children to read and write. Does the merchant have manners? I doubt. Let's pay attention to his gaze. Arrogant, top to bottom. A very evaluating look, as if at a product whose quality he wants to determine. What to look at though? After all, the breadth of a person's knowledge will not be betrayed by his appearance.

Governess and merchant


The girl is an incredible shy woman who bowed her head at the entrance to a strange house and folded her hands in a prayer gesture. The girl bows to the merchant, who looks at her with suspicion - who is this? Where did she come from? Her outfit is modest, like her disposition: a strict dark brown dress with a scarf covering her shoulders. The innocence and youth of her years are betrayed by a sky-blue ribbon in her hair (this is one of the brightest elements in the monochromatic palette of the picture). The headscarf, as I see it, has a lot more meaning. This is not only and not so much a symbol of the youth of years, but a symbol of the purity of her soul and selflessness. The girl came to this house with good and pure intentions - to teach the merchant's children to read and write, to share her knowledge. The owners of the house themselves are hardly distinguished by high aristocratic manners.Otherwise, would they look so obscenely and arrogantly at the poor child? And even with open mouths. In this family, there are no concepts of nobility, understanding, hospitality and at least any decency. Both parents do not see special importance in the girl, they strive to ensure that they have "everything like people." Having a governess in that era meant being at least a little closer to a high circle of people.


Merchant's son

The son is next to the merchant. This young offspring is a copy of his father. With an absolutely identical condescending look. And the frock coat on him, quite possibly his father's (too long). His grin and look, according to the artist Perov himself, shameless and curious, will give an intelligent girl a lot of trouble.

The merchant's son

The merchant's wife and daughter

Behind the back, as if behind a stone wall, look out the merchant's wife, housekeeper and daughter. They, too, look at the guest with great curiosity. But bad manners are visible to the naked eye - they stand with their mouths open. But soon the governess will teach the girl to read, sew and the customs of high society. Her childish face is full of surprise and joy - after all, it was the teacher who came to her. But the hostess of the house came running to this unusual event so soon that she forgot to lower her sleeves (apparently, she was previously engaged in household chores).


Trader's servants

On the left, in the dark side of the house, the merchant's servants look out. Their interest in a new persona is no less than others, but there is no arrogance in their eyes. Soon a young lady with good manners will join them. In the same place, in a dark corner, still lies the governess's briefcase and hat-holder.

What future awaits a young and disenfranchised girl in this house? She's not stupid. She understands the hopelessness of her situation, and, of course, realizes that it will not be easy for her here. The girl will have to endure various humiliating antics of noble persons, an ordering tone and unconditional obedience to all orders of the head of the family. This painting is invaluable for its variety of social themes covered. This is social inequality (the arrogant look of a merchant), and ignorance (behavior of children), lack of elementary upbringing and hospitality (after all, they did not even bother to invite the girl into the house and help to undress). Vasily Perov, one of the most important painters of the 19th century, was one of the first to draw attention to the powerlessness of the era and the plight of people who were forced to become humiliated by hired work. Today the painting "The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant House" is in Moscow in the Tretyakov Gallery.

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