Dog 60. The lapdog with the lady. Serov’s portrait of Zinaida Yusupova.
You may remember 75 or so days ago, we looked at tsarist bad boy Feliks Yusupov and his French bulldog Gugusse. This amazing picture of his mother is the pendant. It’s one of my favourite paintings ever, so felt it an appropriate subject for the 60th dog. I warn you, there may be some gushing.
Firstly, the lightness and deftness of Serov’s touch; the fabrics, the wallpaper, the light on the back of the sofa.
Secondly, Zinaida herself. I’ve always been struck at how, in a room of golden, diaphanous shimmer, her features are so detailed and precise in their execution, almost as if it’s the work of another hand. Her famous beauty and charisma obviously slew Serov for rarely does one see a portrait painter so evidently enamoured of his subject.
Which brings us to the sobachka. Has there ever been a more ancien régime, grander grande chienne? Very well established on that sofa, her little paws haughtily dangling over the silk chintz, she evidently ate her dinner from something pretty by Fabergé and could trace her pedigree back to the very first fluffy white dogs to emerge from Siberia.
The expression tops it all; the pricked, alert ears and those cold, beady, intense black eyes (there’s a song in that...). I’m sure they’re directed straight at Serov, that she understands that he’s vying for her mistress’s attention and affection, and that she’s having none of it.
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