Levitsky. Portrait of Khrushchev and Khovanskaya
Portrait of Ekaterina Nikolaevna Khrushcheva, in marriage von Lohmann and Princess Ekaterina Nikolaevna Khovanskaya, in marriage Neledinsky-Malecki”
One thousand seven hundred seventy three
State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg
In the seventies of the 18th century, Empress Catherine II commissioned Levitsky a series of portraits of Smolyan women. These paintings are almost the best that was created in Russian painting of the XVIII century.
Seven portraits are linked by a common decorative design: it is assumed that they were intended to decorate one of the Palace halls of Peterhof.
The so-called “Partridge parlor”, which was a boudoir, became the place of residence of the finished portraits. It opened a row of women’s rooms, one after the other.
Now there are copies of paintings on display. Experts agree that the paintings were part of a large Palace scene, with Levshina’s portrait in the center.
The portraits depict students of the Smolny Institute of noble maidens, which in the XVIII-XIX century was an educational institution for the privileged class.
The Institute was opened in St. Petersburg in 1764. The daughters of nobles there were trained for service at court and life in secular society. The pupils revealed talents that were “pleasant in society” — they were taught French and German, elegance of manners, as well as dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments.
The Institute often held performances where students played French comedies, “comedian operas”, “plays with arias”, and danced ballet.
Khrushchev and Khovanskaya are depicted as representing a theatrical scene from a comic Opera. The “shepherdess” flirts with the “shepherdess”, who smiles coquettishly and self-consciously in response. Khrushchev, the eldest (she was then twelve years old), is bolder in character, and she is more suited to the male role.
The girl is dressed in a long caftan, a wide-brimmed hat and black shoes; her energetic gesture, dark face, thick dark hair, lively eyes and a cheerful smile answer the role of an enterprising cavalier. Eleven-year-old Khovanskaya is dressed as a shepherdess. She’s wearing a lace-up dress and a transparent apron. She is shy and timid, her shy smile and awkward movements of a teenager are full of charm.