Description of the picture:
The girl in the kokoshnik. Portrait of M. I. Nesterova – Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov. 1885. Oil on wood 28.5 x 23
Maria Ivanova Martynovskaya (married to Nesterov) was the artist’s muse. Their love was swift and because of this haste, the parents of Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov did not even give their approval for marriage. And so they married without blessing.
Even during the courtship, Maria somehow saved the life of Nesterov – he was drowning in the White River. The marriage with the saved artist was for the girl the beginning of the end. She died in childbirth, leaving her inconsolable husband with a daughter. The presented portrait was painted a year before these dramatic events.
The first portraits of Nesterov were dedicated exclusively to their near and dear ones. That is why they have so much love, attentiveness, tenderness. So the “beloved Masha” is depicted with some subtle sentimentality. The woman’s head is decorated with a Russian kokoshnik with beads hanging over her eyes. Her cheeks were touched by a slight blush, her lips were expressively outlined, her eyes were covered. Maria seemed to fall asleep, or maybe thought deeply or dreaming.
Contemporaries recall Maria Ivanovna as a living girl with a flowering face, a lively smile, but some kind of mournful fold near her lips. Her voice was pleasant, with a special soft timbre. Nesterov himself in his biography mentioned that it was the “irresistible face” that attracted him to the girl, that he “had no strength” to move away from her more.
Here, the author and husband portrayed her in a humble manner. Some kind of repentance, pacification, meekness inherent in Russian women are read in her expressive face. For the portrait, the painter chose a calm color – brown, gray, milky tones. The brushstroke of the master is textured, sweeping and dynamic. In detail, Nesterov is especially accurate and scrupulous, while less important elements, such as a collar, for example, are written in generalized, long color lines.
The image of the beautiful wife, adored by Masha, will haunt Nesterov for a long time – here and there on the canvases, no, no, and a sad look, a neat little nose, a humble image, a tragic tonality will flash in the paintings …"