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Serov, Valentin Aleksandrovich
Portrait of Maria Nikolayevna Yermolova

1905
oil on canvas
224 х 120

Maria Nikolayevna Yermolova (1853–1928), an outstanding dramatic actress of Maly Theatre; she created vivid tragic images of Jeanne d'Arc. Maria Stuart, Lady Macbeth, as well as of heroines of works by A.N.Ostrovsky, H.Ibsen and other authors. The portrait was painted for the 35th anniversary of Yermolova's stage career, hence the monumental treatment of the image. The artist succeeded in incarnating the ideal of heroic artistry, full of austere grandeur. The asceticism of the form is underlined by stinting colour scheme and rigorous architectonics of the composition, in which the figure of actress resembles a column. The sensation is enhanced by a double point of view – from above and from below - compounded by a reflection in the mirror on the back wall. The model's spiritual face is full of prophetic grandeur. Portrait traits are combined with mythologization of the image. Yermolova is like a priestess in a temple of arts

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