"The arrival of the governess at the merchant house": what is hidden in the details of Perov's painting
"The arrival of the governess at the merchant house": what is hidden in the details of Perov's painting
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V. Perov. Arrival of the governess at the merchant's house, 1866

January 2 (December 21, old style) marks 183 years since the birth of an outstanding Russian painter Vasily Perov… His name is usually associated with famous paintings. "Hunters at Rest" and "Troika", much less known other works, such as, "Arrival of the governess to the merchant house"… There are many interesting facts hidden in the details of this picture.

I. Kramskoy. Portrait of V. Perov, 1881

Vasily Perov was often called the successor of the work of the artist Pavel Fedotov, with whose paintings Perov has in common the choice of acute social themes, the critical orientation of his works, the special importance of details imperceptible at first glance. In the 1860s. each new picture of Perov became a social phenomenon, his works, exposing the ulcers of society, were consonant with the era of great reforms. The artist was one of the first to focus on the powerlessness of ordinary people of his time.

V. Perov. Self-portrait, 1870

One of these works was the painting "The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant House" (1866). Compositionally and stylistically, it is very close to the genre canvases of P. Fedotov, first of all, the roll-overs are noticeable with "The Major's Matchmaking". But Perov's work is more tragic and hopeless. In 1865, in search of nature for the conceived work, the artist went to the Nizhny Novgorod fair, where merchants from all cities of Russia gathered and "spied" there the necessary types.

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant's house, 1866. Sketch

They seem to have left the pages of A. Ostrovsky's works. These notable analogies sometimes even led to the accusation of Perov being secondary in relation to the writer's artistic world. So, for example, I. Kramskoy wrote about this picture: “The governess herself is charming, there is some embarrassment in her, some kind of haste and something that immediately makes the viewer understand the personality and even the moment, the owner is also not bad, although not new: taken from Ostrovsky. The rest of the faces are superfluous and only spoil the matter."

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

It is hardly possible to fully agree with the opinion of Kramskoy. The rest of the characters were by no means "superfluous". The colorful figure of a young merchant, the owner's son, who stands next to his father and looks at the young lady without hesitation. Commenting on this picture, Perov spoke of "shameless curiosity" - this phrase characterizes the merchant in the best possible way.

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

The merchant feels himself not only a full-fledged master of the house, but also a sovereign master of the situation. He stands on his hips, legs wide apart, his stomach outstretched and frankly examines the newcomer, well aware of the fact that from that moment on she will be in his power. The reception cannot be called warm - the merchant looks at the girl condescendingly, from top to bottom, as if immediately pointing her to her place in this house.

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

In the bowed head of the governess, in the uncertain movement of her hands, when she takes out a letter of recommendation, one feels doom and like a presentiment of future death, inevitable due to the obvious alienation of this poor girl to the dark kingdom of the merchant's world. The critic V. Stasov defined the content of this picture as follows: "Not a tragedy for now, but a real prologue to a tragedy."

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

On the wall hangs a portrait of a merchant, apparently the founder of this family, whose representatives are currently trying to hide their true nature behind a decent appearance. Although not everyone succeeds equally. The merchant's wife looks at the girl with undisguised mistrust and ill will.She herself is clearly far from those "manners" and "sciences" that the governess will teach her daughter, but wants everything "like people" in their family, so she agreed to let the girl into the house.

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

In the left corner of the doorway were servants. They, too, look at the young lady with curiosity, but there is no arrogance on their faces - only interest in the one that will soon keep them company. Probably, the girl, having received a good education, dreamed not of such a fate at all. Hardly anyone in this house understands why merchant daughters need to know foreign languages ​​and high society manners.

V. Perov. Arrival of the governess to the merchant house, 1866. Fragment

The only bright spot in the picture is the figurine of the merchant's daughter, to which the governess was invited. The pink color of Feathers is usually used to emphasize spiritual purity. The girl's face is the only one on which, in addition to curiosity, sincere sympathy is reflected.

Painting The Arrival of the Governess to the Merchant House in the Tretyakov Gallery

Not a single character in the picture can be called superfluous or accidental, they are all in their place and serve to realize the artistic idea. Perov, like Gogol, whose work he admired, was obsessed with the idea of ​​creating an encyclopedia of Russian types in his works. And he really succeeded. Details play an important role in other works of the artist. "Hunters at Rest": Secrets of Perov's Most Famous Painting

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