(n/a) Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky (Russian, 1846-1920)
'Rest on the way from Kiev (Pilgrim)' signed in Cyrillic and dated '1888' (lower right) oil on canvas 61 x 84cm (24 x 33 1/16in).
Provenance: Private European collection.
The offered lot is an early version of Makovskys famous composition entitled Pilgrim or Rest on the way to Kiev, which was first shown at the XVI travelling exhibition of the Itinerants (Society of Travelling Exhibitions) in 1888 (no. 43 in the St. Petersburg exhibition catalogue). In recent years another version of this composition appeared at auction and was identified as the original composition. The original composition, reproduced in the Catalogue of the XVI exhibition of the Itinerants (H. Hoppe, St. Petersburg, 1888) was somewhat different the young woman was examining beads in her hand and not reading a prayer book (see ill. 1). Her costume and hairstyle were arranged differently and the motifs of the pictures on the walls were not the same as in other versions. In addition, the original painting was much larger: 124 x 177 cm.
It was very typical for Makovsky to create several versions of the same subject matter, particularly of his most successful and famous works. This practice was often mentioned by art critics and writers of that time, for example the famous publicist N. Breshko-Breshkovsky wrote: 'in trying to achieve the desired results, Makovsky has remade his already finished and exhibited works several times'. Frequently, he altered the general mise en scène by changing some nuances in the relations between the subjects in the composition.
The initial version elicited mixed responses from the art critics. The reviewer V. Voskresensky noted in his exhibition review in Art News (1888, no. 6, 157) that the centre of interest in this painting is 'the traveller, the old fox and "roué", sitting in the corner, eating bream with kvass, looking at the buxom maiden with rosy cheeks, and every once in a while issuing some words, which embarrass the young girl considerably'. The critic I. Yasinsky wrote to the contrary in the World Illustration (no. 1000, p. 231) that the artist had painted a 'provincial ascetic' with 'sparkling eyes and a naively sweet grin on his bloodless lips' who might well be 'a rascal, but at the same time is sincerely devoted to his pilgrimage to the holy places'. Apparently, such interpretations of the main figure of the work, as well as many reproaches concerning the poor quality of the female figure (one critic said that she was painted 'as if the artist had never before encountered this form') compelled the artist to start working on new versions.
It is worth noting that the content of the travelling exhibition did not remain the same in all cities it went to in 1888 (Moscow, Kharkov, Poltava, Odessa, Kiev and Warsaw ). This becomes apparent when comparing the exhibition catalogues published in each city. The non-correspondence of the Moscow and the St. Petersburg catalogues and the difference between compositions shown in St. Petersburg and Moscow were immediately noticed by the Moscow press: 'in the painting by V. Makovsky "Rest on the way from Kiev" the female figure is different - in the illustrated St. Petersburg catalogue she is looking at the beads, here in Moscow she is holding a book in her hand' (Moscow News, 1888, no. 118, 20 April, p.3)
A printed reproduction of the version exhibited in Moscow was published in the Fine Art Survey Journal (1888. no. 20, p. 319). Here, for the first time we encounter a composition similar to the one of the offered lot and to the version that appeared at auction recently. However, it is hard to identify this illustration with one of them in particular and both of the known versions are smaller in size and differ in the depiction of the female figure. The representation of the cross on the back cover of the prayer book is also different (see ill. 2).
The changes in the composition and in the features of the main characters are very characteristic of Makovskys uvre, especially at the early stages of his work on a certain composition. When the artist thought he had found the best representation, he could repeat it several times without any apparent changes. The period of the 1880-1890s was when Vladimir Makovsky was at his artistic best and very popular among the Russian public. During this time, his works were often bought not only at exhibitions, but also when he was still working on them. As such, it was not unusual for the artist to produce several versions of his most popular paintings.
The inscriptions on the stretcher and old U.S. custom stamps on the verso suggest that the offered lot was exhibited in America. Indeed, it is known that a composition entitled Pilgrim was exhibited at the Russian Pavilion of the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 (see: World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, Index of the Russian Department, St. Petersburg: Е. Evdokimov, 1893, no. 818.4, p.368).
We would like to thank Vladimir Poliakov for this catalogue entry.