The portrait has an unusual size: a very narrow canvas, on which the slender model is skillfully painted. The festive (and not mournful) combination of red and black attract the eye, make the viewer take a good look and appreciate the artist’s painting skills. The neutral background does not distract from the exquisite outfit, where the deliberate simplicity of the skirt and blouse (they seem to be “pretending” to be democratic clothes of a female student) will not deceive a fashion expert. Repin’s free brush managed to convey with equal accuracy the face of the Baroness behind a thin veil and the foam of her lacy skirt. This portrait would have remained “just” elegant and ceremonial, if ... not for the model herself. The mistress of a noisy and motley literary salon, who herself used to write a lot in her youth and have her works published, earned warm and sincere words from Zinaida Gippius: “This charming secular woman had a special life-breath inside, active and inquisitive. <...> She had an exceptional composure and a huge stock of common sense”. A brilliant portrait painter, I.Y. Repin, expands with this work the boundaries of the traditional realistic portrait. Its plastic language correlates with the style of Art Nouveau.
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