Orest Kiprensky - The Portrait of Yevgraf Davydov, Colonel of the Life-Hussars

The Portrait of Yevgraf Davydov, Colonel of the Life-Hussars (1809) is Kiprensky’s most famous painting. It is a sort of manifesto of the Romantic period in art. Its visual meaning strikingly coincides with the salient features in the concept of a national hero which formed in that period of growing patriotism. The effective, free-and-easy pose of this defender of the motherland is full of concealed power. The dreamy expression on the unhandsome, yet charming and courageous face does not obscure the impression of an active nature, a vivid character. The sense of emotional tension is heightened by the threatening landscape in he background, the moulding of the figure in large visual masses and the restrained, but “ardent” palette. It is quite understandable that, its true subject forgotten, the portrait was long considered a depiction of the poet partisan Denis Davydov, one of the heroes of the war against Napoleon in 1812 whose praises were sung in verses and ballads and who made his mark in the popular memory. Documents in the archives indicate beyond doubt, however, that here Kiprensky depicted Denis’s cousin, Yevgraf Davydov, another hero of the war against the French.

 

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