Provenance: Collection of the artist and art historian Lev Zhegin (1892–1969), Moscow.
Acquired from the above by George Costakis in 1961.
A gift from George Costakis to his granddaughter in 1975 (inscription on the backing board).
Important private collection, Europe.
Inscribed in Cyrillic with an authentication by Lev Zhegin on the reverse.
Literature: A. Zander Rudenstine, Russian Avant-Garde Art. The George Costakis Collection, New York,
Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1981, p. 238, No. 446, illustrated and listed as Female Portrait.
Mikhail Larionov addressed the genre of pure portraiture comparatively rarely and therefore this early female portrait here at auction may justly be called a singular example. The provenance of this wok is equally singular. It comes from the collection of Lev Zhegin, an artist and art historian who was a close friend and member of Larionov’s inner circle by the beginning of the 1910s. Zhegin, like many other artists of the younger generation, was attracted by Larionov’s innovation, his boldness and ability to surmount the barriers of artistic conservatism, and the prospect of free creativity he opened up not only for himself but for his many followers. For this reason Larionov’s work always held a distinguished place in Zhegin’s collection and the portrait at auction here – probably a gift from the artist to his friend – is one of the
finer specimens from his collection.
The portrait was painted in the early 1900s when Larionov was studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture – when Natalia Goncharova was the principle if not only model for his few portraits. It was here that Larionov met this young girl from a family of intellectuals descended from Pushkin’s Goncharovs when she joined the sculpture department in 1901. Romance soon sparked and from 1903 the artists’ fates were irrevocably interwoven.
Painted in delicate blue-grey tones, at a time when Larionov was by his own admission “an impressionist and madly in love with Verlaine”, this portrait is one of his earliest painted works – very rare even in museum collections – and represents a new and interesting side of Larionov’s Impressionist period, rightly regarded as one of the high points of his oeuvre.