Portrait of the Artist's Wife
Portrait of the Artist's Wife
Portrait of the Artist's Wife

Portrait of the Artist’s Wife

Konstantin Makovsky
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reference number: RP_007


oil on canvas

214 x 110 cm

signed and dated lower right: C Makovsky, 1900

Private collection, Europe
Sale Blanchet & Joron-Derem, Paris, November 10, 2000, lot 63
Private collection, USA

Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900

Catalogue illustre officiel de l’exposition decennale des beax-arts, Paris 1900
L. Greder, Loisirs d’art: mélanges, la peinture étrangère à l’Exposition de 1900, Paris, 1900
W. Salmond, R.E. Martin, W. Zeisler, Konstantin Makovsky: The Tsar’s Painter in America and Paris, Hillwood, 2016, illustrated

Konstantin Egorovich Makovsky (1839-1915) left a significant artistic legacy. He worked as a genre painter, was a master of history painting and was also a skilled landscape artist. However, Makovsky is especially renowned for his elegant female salon portraits.


Makovsky frequently painted women he was close to. He was happily married three times. Maria Alexeevna Matavtina (1869-1919) was his third wife. The artist met her in 1889 in Paris, where he kept a studio. As a result, Makovsky divorced his second wife, Julia Pavlovna, in 1892 and remarried in 1898. Maria Alekseevna was thirty years younger than him. Since the 1890’s, Maria Alekseevna was the artist’s favorite model. Her portraits were frequently shown at various exhibitions. She posed for such famous paintings as Romeo and Juliet (1895, the Odessa Art Museum) and Ophelia.


The present portrait of Maria Matavtina is painted in the best tradition of classical formal European portraiture, imparting the desire of a maestro to compete with the Old Masters. It is not by chance that Makovsky’s contemporaries compared him to van Dyck while the art critics remarked that ‘his colours sing, like those of Rubens.‘ As Dr. Elena Nesterova writes, ‘his canvases…combined the formal and the intimate, the majestic and the sentimental… [They] were remarkable for their superb technique, excellent detail (…) rich and decorative colours, the freedom and energy of the brushwork‘ (Konstantin Makovsky, St.Petersburg, 2003, p. 268).


Makovsky’s female portraits constitute a body of superb painting, with a wonderful sense of detail and of its place in the overall composition of the work, a richness and ornamentation of colouring, a free and temperamental brushwork and an eroticism, which although not overt, was nevertheless expressed in the very presentation of the image. This portrait of the artist’s third wife, Maria Matavtina, possesses all of these characteristics to the highest degree.

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