Kiprensky – “Portrait of A. A. Chelishchev”

The masterpiece among the early portraits of 1808-1809 is the portrait of Alexander Chelishchev. In August 1812, fourteen-year-old Chelishchev was released with the rank of warrant officer from the Corps of Pages into the active army and received his baptism of fire in a fierce battle near Maloyaroslavets, when the city passed from hand to hand eight times.

Just like in the famous portrait of his father, a wooden board without soil was used here. But the contrast of light and shadow is even bolder: the face is brightly highlighted with light, and in deep shadow the contour of the head and shoulders is hardly readable. The whole image is built on playing with contrasts – white, red and blue form a sonorous chord, dark eyes on a bright face, and, finally, the main contrast – the lovingly conveyed features of a completely childish face and an “adult”, intelligent and serious expression. The face itself is calm, but the painting literally depicts a situation of sudden insight. The theme of the portrait could be defined as the awakening in the human being of a self-conscious personality. Actually, the inner world is a universal theme for Kiprensky, but in a child’s portrait it acquires the status of a central creative problem – after all, the discovery of the inner world is the main event of childhood on the verge of meeting youth. We clearly feel that the person in the portrait is alone with his thoughts and feelings, that is, the moment is depicted here, which belongs to the hidden minutes, in principle without a viewer, this is the ultimate embodiment of intimacy in portrait art. Kiprensky’s model-viewer relationship is such that it establishes an atmosphere of trust and friendly participation. This was the main artistic discovery of Kiprensky. This was his human and artistic norm. The degree of proximity or remoteness from this norm was subsequently measured as the artist’s own well-being in front of the models, and the well-being of the models facing the artist’s eyes.

Year of painting: 1809.

Dimensions of the painting: 48 x 38 cm.

Material: wood.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: portrait.

Style: romanticism.

Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Russia.

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