A Mystery Behind the Tretyakov Gallery Painting Has Been Solved

  • The Tretyakov Art Gallery has an exclusive collection of unique Russian art.
  • The painting in question is "Portrait of F.P. Makerovky in masquerade costume."
  • It was restored in 1914.

A mystery behind the Tretyakov gallery painting has been solved in a study published in the Heritage Science Journal.  Tretyakov Art Gallery is an extensive museum complex containing masterpieces of Russian art from the 11th – early 20th century, temporary exhibitions, educational and cultural programs. The Tretyakov Art Gallery has an exclusive collection of unique Russian art. It was founded by the Moscow merchant and industrialist Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832-1898).

V. V. Vereshchagin.

In 1856 Tretyakov started the collection with a sole purpose of creating the National Arts Museum. With the acquisition of a large Turkestan series of paintings and sketches by V. V. Vereshchagin, the question of building a special building for the art gallery was resolved by itself. In 1872, construction began and in the spring of 1874 the paintings were moved to a two-story building consisting of two large halls.

In 1867, after the conquest of Turkestan by the Tsarist troops, young famous battle artist Vasily Vereshchagin accepted the invitation of the Turkestan Governor-General General K. P. Kaufman to be his Secretary-artist. Vereshchagin agreed to go on a dangerous journey. In his autobiographical notes, he indicated the reason that pushed him into the dangerous journey and thereafter the collection of paintings was started.

The painting in question is “Portrait of F.P. Makerovky in masquerade costume.” The study determined the masterpiece in question was in fact painted by Dmitry Levitsky, a Russian Imperial artist and portrait painter of Ukrainian Cossack descent.

Portrait of F.P. Makerovky in masquerade costum.

The painting has three parts and experts had no doubt that the main piece was painted by Levitsky. However, they did not know when or by whom the other two pieces may have been added. The two extended pieces were sewn to the main canvas and it was visible. That was the cause of previous doubts about who the artist was.

The portrait of Faust Petrovich Makerovsky, stored in the Tretyakov gallery, is considered one of the masterpieces of Dmitry Levitsky’s work. He was in high demand and painted such royalty as Catherine II.

According to the Tretyakov gallery, the painting was restored in 1914. Currently, experts believe that restoration interfered with the aesthetic perception of the image.

Due to the  restoration, a group of researchers, restorers, art historians, technologists and chemists from the Tretyakov Gallery conducted a comprehensive study of Dmitry Levitsky’s work. Hence, the discovery of the original painter.

The plausible explanation could be the artist decided to make the painting much larger and more detailed, requiring additional pieces added to the original canvas. The style and the pattern were consistent within the whole painting.

Researchers claim they’ve gained additional understanding of Levitsky’s work and his vision.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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