What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

Categories: Culture | History

The traditional Academic Exhibition, held in 1863 in St. Petersburg, has become unlike others. It could even be called a sensation, because nothing like this happened before or after that. The 30-year-old painter Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, who just graduated from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, immediately received the degree of professor of the Academy of Arts!

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

Such a brilliant career in the art world became possible thanks to the painting "Unequal Marriage" presented at the exhibition. A lot of rumors immediately arose around this work. In St. Petersburg and Moscow, they said different things, but most of the conversations were about the fact that the plot was inspired by the personal tragedy of the author. But what was it really like?

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

There are several versions about where Pukirev took the plot of the picture. What is happening on the canvas itself does not raise questions. A very young girl, almost a child, is led down the aisle by an old man old enough to be her grandfather. Of course, the viewer's sympathies are on the side of the unfortunate bride.

The people depicted on the canvas are quite real. Behind the girl's back is Pukirev's friend, also an artist, Pyotr Mikhailovich Shmelkov. It is he who looks straight at the viewer in confusion. There is also a frame maker Grebensky in the crowd, who promised to make a frame for the picture "which the world has never seen before." The best man standing on the far right with an extremely dissatisfied face is very similar to Vasily Pukirev himself.

As soon as the canvas was presented to the public, she was surrounded by rumors and speculation. It was said that the artist depicted his bride being married off by prudent parents to an old man. But, there is a version that Pukirev showed the tragedy of his close friend, merchant Sergei Varentsov. He was in love with a young lady and he was reciprocated. But the girl's parents wanted a noble spouse for their daughter and forcibly married her to another.

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

Merchant Varentsov was waiting for another test. He was supposed to play the role of best man at the wedding, as he was a relative of the newlywed. It should be emphasized that the age difference between the bride and groom in reality was not as striking as in the picture. It was only 13 years old, but Pukirev decided to add drama to the plot. Therefore, his fiance turned out to be 40 years older. This move added tragedy to the history of unequal marriage and the picture, as they say, "shot".

The problem of unequal marriages in the middle of the 19th century was very acute. Most of the unions were concluded in this way and this began to be openly talked about in society. In 1861, the Holy Synod even issued a decree condemning unequal marriages. Unfortunately, even such an important document could not change anything.

Vasily Pukirev himself never mentioned the tragedy of Sergei Varentsov. But it was described in his memoirs by a relative of the merchant, Nikolai Varentsov. In addition, this version is confirmed by the surviving sketch of the painting. On it , the similarity of the best man is not noticeable with Pukirev, namely with Varentsov. A man with his arms folded on his chest and his eyes boring into an elderly groom looks like a merchant. You can see this by looking at his portrait.

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

But why did the artist replace Varentsov with himself in the final version of the painting? Everything is simple. While Pukirev was writing his masterpiece, a lot has changed. The bride, who was forcibly married, turned out to be happily married! Her husband turned out to be a decent and kind man. And Varentsov himself, a year after the wedding, found his fate in the person of another woman and planned to get married.

Therefore, the merchant's person in the picture turned out to be completely out of place and the artist replaced the character's face. They say that Pukirev did not want to change anything and even quarreled with his friend. But then I agreed with his arguments and drew the best man a beard that looked like two drops of water on his own.

The painting "Unequal Marriage" has another version of origin. Vasily Pukirev painted the bride from a model whose name was… Praskovya Matveeva Varentsova. No, she was not a relative of the merchant and, most likely, was not even familiar with him. She was the illegitimate offspring of a noble princely family. At the same time, the relatives took part in her fate with all their might.

Moscow writer and journalist Vladimir Gilyarovsky wrote that Pukirev was in love with Varentsov and even proposed to her. But the girl did not dispose of herself and married a man whom an influential relative picked up for her. A friend of the artist told him about it:

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

The same version is confirmed by the oldest employee of the Tretyakov Gallery N. A. Mudrogel, hired by Tretyakov himself. In his memoirs , he talked about it like this:

But was the fate of the young bride tragic, or maybe everything ended well, as in the version with the merchant Varentsov?

The veil of mystery over the fate of the bride is lifted by another artist. In 2002 in The Tretyakov Gallery received a drawing by the artist and teacher Vladimir Dmitrievich Sukhov.  An elderly woman in modest clothes and with sad eyes was depicted on a piece of paper with simple pencils.

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

The work was signed by the author, who reported that:

One can only guess how the fate of Praskovya Varentsova developed in marriage. One thing is for sure that if she ended up in a poorhouse in her old age, then there was nothing good in her marriage. A lonely, dreary old age among their own kind is the result of this and many other unequal marriages concluded for the sake of money or titles.

As for Vasily Pukirev himself, life did not spoil him either. After his triumph associated with the "Unequal Marriage", the artist painted several more good paintings. But none of them repeated the success of his first work. The artist met his old age in poverty and loneliness.

What was the real fate of the bride from Vasily Pukarev's painting "Unequal marriage"

Pukirev's painting made a more serious contribution to the fight against unequal marriages than the Decree of the Synod. The artist Ilya Repin noted that the artist "spoiled a lot of blood for more than one old general." The famous Russian historian N. Kostomarov even admitted that the picture made him turn to his conscience and refuse to marry a young person.

If you are fascinated by the unusual stories of famous paintings, then you will probably be interested to find out how Repin's painting "Sailed" is actually called and why everyone calls it incorrectly.

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