Portrait of Alexander Chelishchev. 1808- early 1809
48 х 38 Oil on wood Tretyakov Gallery, Hall 8

Alexander Alexandrovich Chelishchev (1797-1881) participated in the Patriotic War of 1812 and foreign campaigns of the Russian Army (1813-1814.) He was a member of the Union for Prosperity and the Northern Society but did not take part in the Decembrist uprising. He retired from service in 1827. The Romantic era creates a special attitude towards childhood. The 18th century artist usually portrayed a child as a small adult, often in a particular role. The Romantic artist sees in the child a unique world, profound and pure, untouched by vices of the world. Here Chelishchev is portrayed as a contemplator, alien to fuss. The gaze of his bottomless eyes is directed through the viewer and, at the same time, inward. The effect of this ‘dual gaze’ is a distinguishing feature of the Romantic portrait. The boy’s silhouette seems to melt into the velvety background. The harmonic coordination of colours in his clothes accentuates his facial pallor. The light seems to come from within, from the depths of the soul, which for a Romantic was equal to the universe.

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