Anna karenina, p.133
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       Anna Karenina, p.133

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 9

  The old neglected palazzo, with its lofty carved ceilings and frescoeson the walls, with its floors of mosaic, with its heavy yellow stuffcurtains on the windows, with its vases on pedestals, and its openfireplaces, its carved doors and gloomy reception rooms, hung withpictures--this palazzo did much, by its very appearance after they hadmoved into it, to confirm in Vronsky the agreeable illusion that he wasnot so much a Russian country gentleman, a retired army officer, as anenlightened amateur and patron of the arts, himself a modest artist whohad renounced the world, his connections, and his ambition for the sakeof the woman he loved.

  The pose chosen by Vronsky with their removal into the palazzo wascompletely successful, and having, through Golenishtchev, madeacquaintance with a few interesting people, for a time he was satisfied.He painted studies from nature under the guidance of an Italianprofessor of painting, and studied mediaeval Italian life. MediaevalItalian life so fascinated Vronsky that he even wore a hat and flung acloak over his shoulder in the mediaeval style, which, indeed, wasextremely becoming to him.

  "Here we live, and know nothing of what's going on," Vronsky said toGolenishtchev as he came to see him one morning. "Have you seenMihailov's picture?" he said, handing him a Russian gazette he hadreceived that morning, and pointing to an article on a Russian artist,living in the very same town, and just finishing a picture which hadlong been talked about, and had been bought beforehand. The articlereproached the government and the academy for letting so remarkable anartist be left without encouragement and support.

  "I've seen it," answered Golenishtchev. "Of course, he's not withouttalent, but it's all in a wrong direction. It's all theIvanov-Strauss-Renan attitude to Christ and to religious painting."

  "What is the subject of the picture?" asked Anna.

  "Christ before Pilate. Christ is represented as a Jew with all therealism of the new school."

  And the question of the subject of the picture having brought him to oneof his favorite theories, Golenishtchev launched forth into adisquisition on it.

  "I can't understand how they can fall into such a gross mistake. Christalways has His definite embodiment in the art of the great masters. Andtherefore, if they want to depict, not God, but a revolutionist or asage, let them take from history a Socrates, a Franklin, a CharlotteCorday, but not Christ. They take the very figure which cannot be takenfor their art, and then..."

  "And is it true that this Mihailov is in such poverty?" asked Vronsky,thinking that, as a Russian Maecenas, it was his duty to assist theartist regardless of whether the picture were good or bad.

  "I should say not. He's a remarkable portrait-painter. Have you everseen his portrait of Madame Vassiltchikova? But I believe he doesn'tcare about painting any more portraits, and so very likely he is inwant. I maintain that..."

  "Couldn't we ask him to paint a portrait of Anna Arkadyevna?" saidVronsky.

  "Why mine?" said Anna. "After yours I don't want another portrait.Better have one of Annie" (so she called her baby girl). "Here she is,"she added, looking out of the window at the handsome Italian nurse, whowas carrying the child out into the garden, and immediately glancingunnoticed at Vronsky. The handsome nurse, from whom Vronsky was paintinga head for his picture, was the one hidden grief in Anna's life. Hepainted with her as his model, admired her beauty and mediaevalism, andAnna dared not confess to herself that she was afraid of becomingjealous of this nurse, and was for that reason particularly gracious andcondescending both to her and her little son. Vronsky, too, glanced outof the window and into Anna's eyes, and, turning at once toGolenishtchev, he said:

  "Do you know this Mihailov?"

  "I have met him. But he's a queer fish, and quite without breeding. Youknow, one of those uncouth new people one's so often coming acrossnowadays, one of those free-thinkers you know, who are reared _d'emblee_in theories of atheism, scepticism, and materialism. In former days,"said Golenishtchev, not observing, or not willing to observe, that bothAnna and Vronsky wanted to speak, "in former days the free-thinker was aman who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, andonly through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now therehas sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without evenhaving heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existenceof authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything,that is to say, savages. Well, he's of that class. He's the son, itappears, of some Moscow butler, and has never had any sort ofbringing-up. When he got into the academy and made his reputation hetried, as he's no fool, to educate himself. And he turned to what seemedto him the very source of culture--the magazines. In old times, you see,a man who wanted to educate himself--a Frenchman, for instance--wouldhave set to work to study all the classics and theologians andtragedians and historiaris and philosophers, and, you know, all theintellectual work that came in his way. But in our day he goes straightfor the literature of negation, very quickly assimilates all theextracts of the science of negation, and he's ready. And that's notall--twenty years ago he would have found in that literature traces ofconflict with authorities, with the creeds of the ages; he would haveperceived from this conflict that there was something else; but now hecomes at once upon a literature in which the old creeds do not evenfurnish matter for discussion, but it is stated baldly that there isnothing else--evolution, natural selection, struggle for existence--andthat's all. In my article I've..."

  "I tell you what," said Anna, who had for a long while been exchangingwary glances with Vronsky, and knew that he was not in the leastinterested in the education of this artist, but was simply absorbed bythe idea of assisting him, and ordering a portrait of him; "I tell youwhat," she said, resolutely interrupting Golenishtchev, who was stilltalking away, "let's go and see him!"

  Golenishtchev recovered his self-possession and readily agreed. But asthe artist lived in a remote suburb, it was decided to take thecarriage.

  An hour later Anna, with Golenishtchev by her side and Vronsky on thefront seat of the carriage, facing them, drove up to a new ugly house inthe remote suburb. On learning from the porter's wife, who came out tothem, that Mihailov saw visitors at his studio, but that at that momenthe was in his lodging only a couple of steps off, they sent her to himwith their cards, asking permission to see his picture.

 
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