Anna karenina, p.137
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       Anna Karenina, p.137

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 13

  Mihailov sold Vronsky his picture, and agreed to paint a portrait ofAnna. On the day fixed he came and began the work.

  From the fifth sitting the portrait impressed everyone, especiallyVronsky, not only by its resemblance, but by its characteristic beauty.It was strange how Mihailov could have discovered just hercharacteristic beauty. "One needs to know and love her as I have lovedher to discover the very sweetest expression of her soul," Vronskythought, though it was only from this portrait that he had himselflearned this sweetest expression of her soul. But the expression was sotrue that he, and others too, fancied they had long known it.

  "I have been struggling on for ever so long without doing anything," hesaid of his own portrait of her, "and he just looked and painted it.That's where technique comes in."

  "That will come," was the consoling reassurance given him byGolenishtchev, in whose view Vronsky had both talent, and what was mostimportant, culture, giving him a wider outlook on art. Golenishtchev'sfaith in Vronsky's talent was propped up by his own need of Vronsky'ssympathy and approval for his own articles and ideas, and he felt thatthe praise and support must be mutual.

  In another man's house, and especially in Vronsky's palazzo, Mihailovwas quite a different man from what he was in his studio. He behavedwith hostile courtesy, as though he were afraid of coming closer topeople he did not respect. He called Vronsky "your excellency," andnotwithstanding Anna's and Vronsky's invitations, he would never stay todinner, nor come except for the sittings. Anna was even more friendly tohim than to other people, and was very grateful for her portrait.Vronsky was more than cordial with him, and was obviously interested toknow the artist's opinion of his picture. Golenishtchev never let slipan opportunity of instilling sound ideas about art into Mihailov. ButMihailov remained equally chilly to all of them. Anna was aware from hiseyes that he liked looking at her, but he avoided conversation with her.Vronsky's talk about his painting he met with stubborn silence, and hewas as stubbornly silent when he was shown Vronsky's picture. He wasunmistakably bored by Golenishtchev's conversation, and he did notattempt to oppose him.

  Altogether Mihailov, with his reserved and disagreeable, as it were,hostile attitude, was quite disliked by them as they got to know himbetter; and they were glad when the sittings were over, and they wereleft with a magnificent portrait in their possession, and he gave upcoming. Golenishtchev was the first to give expression to an idea thathad occurred to all of them, which was that Mihailov was simply jealousof Vronsky.

  "Not envious, let us say, since he has _talent_; but it annoys him thata wealthy man of the highest society, and a count, too (you know theyall detest a title), can, without any particular trouble, do as well, ifnot better, than he who has devoted all his life to it. And more thanall, it's a question of culture, which he is without."

  Vronsky defended Mihailov, but at the bottom of his heart he believedit, because in his view a man of a different, lower world would be sureto be envious.

  Anna's portrait--the same subject painted from nature both by him and byMihailov--ought to have shown Vronsky the difference between him andMihailov; but he did not see it. Only after Mihailov's portrait waspainted he left off painting his portrait of Anna, deciding that it wasnow not needed. His picture of mediaeval life he went on with. And hehimself, and Golenishtchev, and still more Anna, thought it very good,because it was far more like the celebrated pictures they knew thanMihailov's picture.

  Mihailov meanwhile, although Anna's portrait greatly fascinated him, waseven more glad than they were when the sittings were over, and he had nolonger to listen to Golenishtchev's disquisitions upon art, and couldforget about Vronsky's painting. He knew that Vronsky could not beprevented from amusing himself with painting; he knew that he and alldilettanti had a perfect right to paint what they liked, but it wasdistasteful to him. A man could not be prevented from making himself abig wax doll, and kissing it. But if the man were to come with the dolland sit before a man in love, and begin caressing his doll as the lovercaressed the woman he loved, it would be distasteful to the lover. Justsuch a distasteful sensation was what Mihailov felt at the sight ofVronsky's painting: he felt it both ludicrous and irritating, bothpitiable and offensive.

  Vronsky's interest in painting and the Middle Ages did not last long. Hehad enough taste for painting to be unable to finish his picture. Thepicture came to a standstill. He was vaguely aware that its defects,inconspicuous at first, would be glaring if he were to go on with it.The same experience befell him as Golenishtchev, who felt that he hadnothing to say, and continually deceived himself with the theory thathis idea was not yet mature, that he was working it out and collectingmaterials. This exasperated and tortured Golenishtchev, but Vronsky wasincapable of deceiving and torturing himself, and even more incapable ofexasperation. With his characteristic decision, without explanation orapology, he simply ceased working at painting.

  But without this occupation, the life of Vronsky and of Anna, whowondered at his loss of interest in it, struck them as intolerablytedious in an Italian town. The palazzo suddenly seemed so obtrusivelyold and dirty, the spots on the curtains, the cracks in the floors, thebroken plaster on the cornices became so disagreeably obvious, and theeverlasting sameness of Golenishtchev, and the Italian professor and theGerman traveler became so wearisome, that they had to make some change.They resolved to go to Russia, to the country. In Petersburg Vronskyintended to arrange a partition of the land with his brother, while Annameant to see her son. The summer they intended to spend on Vronsky'sgreat family estate.

 
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