The portrait was painted in St. Petersburg, where Samoilova arrived to receive the inheritance bequeathed to her by Count Yu.P. Litta. She is depicted here with her pupil Amatsilia Pacini, whom we can see in The Horsewoman as a little girl who ran out onto the porch.
This is, without a doubt, the best of the ceremonial portraits of the master – the apotheosis of Bryullov the composer, with amazing art combining mathematical calculation in a sophisticated balance of poses with the natural habits and well-being of the heroines, amazing in such an extremely difficult mise-en-scène for a long posing. In a multi-layered garment piled up with heavy multi-tiered folds, the figure of Samoilova is like an architectural structure, moreover, tilted, like the leaning tower of Pisa, so that the figure of a girl leaning against it in a counter diagonal slope plays the role of a buttress that provides the entire structure with the necessary static balance. “Massive stops” – this is how Alexander Ivanov called this effect, who noted it in the works of old Italian masters. This diagonal roll makes the pressure of an invisible wave hitting the shoulder and back visually perceptible – a compositional metaphor of a certain force emanating from space, where a masquerade crowd is seen, a force that drives away. In this context, the movement of Samoilova, hugging the pupil’s shoulder, reveals its real meaning: she stretches out the canopy, guards, protects and protects the young fragile creature from the onslaught of this force – a magnificent paraphrase of the main theme of The Last Day of Pompeii. And at the same time, the tilt of the figure endows its movement with defiant demonstrativeness: “look, here I am leaving, the end of the masquerade pretense”.
Decorative showiness, boldness of a bright colorful range, composed of the main colors of the spectrum with a predominance of intense red, triumphant pathetics, seemingly simple allegory of the “masquerade of life”, where a proud beauty, leaving behind a masquerade crowd in a whitish haze, throws off the mask from the beautiful faces, jester, unfurling a heavy curtain: finita lа comedia – no halftones, no ambiguities. Never before, nor later did Bryullov achieve such convincing artistic pathos.
Together with “The Horsewoman” and “Portrait of Yu.P. Samoilova with Giovannina Pacini and arapka “, created during the work on” The Last Day of Pompeii “, this portrait forms a kind of triptych dedicated to the famous beauty. By the way, Samoilova served as the prototype of the character from this picture – a woman-matron hugging two girls clinging to her. Among the faces of St. Petersburg female portraits, mostly sweetly languidly cutesy, this portrait stands out for its pathetic grandezza, as if reviving the style of a large painting.
Year of painting: 1842.
The size of the painting: 249 x 176 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Gallery: State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.