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Chapter 9


The old neglected palazzo, with its lofty carved ceilings and
frescoes on the walls, with its floors of mosaic, with its heavy
yellow stuff curtains on the windows, with its vases on
pedestals, and its open fireplaces, its carved doors and gloomy
reception rooms, hung with pictures--this palazzo did much, by
its very appearance after they had moved into it, to confirm in
Vronsky the agreeable illusion that he was not so much a Russian
country gentleman, a retired army officer, as an enlightened
amateur and patron of the arts, himself a modest artist who had
renounced the world, his connections, and his ambition for the
sake of the woman he loved.

The pose chosen by Vronsky with their removal into the palazzo
was completely successful, and having, through Golenishtchev,
made acquaintance with a few interesting people, for a time he
was satisfied. He painted studies from nature under the guidance
of an Italian professor of painting, and studied medieval
Italian life. Medieval Italian life so fascinated Vronsky that
he even wore a hat and flung a cloak over his shoulder in the
medieval style, which, indeed, was extremely becoming to him.

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

"I've seen it," answered Golenishtchev. "Of course, he's not
without talent, but it's all in a wrong direction. It's all the
Ivanov-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
the realism of the new school."

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

"I can't understand how they can fall into such a gross mistake.
Christ always has His definite embodiment in the art of the great
masters. And therefore, if they want to depict, not God, but a
revolutionist or a sage, let them take from history a Socrates, a
Franklin, a Charlotte Corday, but not Christ. They take the very
figure which cannot be taken for 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 the artist regardless of whether the picture were good or
bad.

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

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

"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, who was carrying the child out into
the garden, and immediately glancing unnoticed at Vronsky. The
handsome nurse, from whom Vronsky was painting a head for his
picture, was the one hidden grief in Anna's life. He painted
with her as his model, admired her beauty and medievalism, and
Anna dared not confess to herself that she was afraid of becoming
jealous of this nurse, and was for that reason particularly
gracious and condescending both to her and her little son.
Vronsky, too, glanced out of the window and into Anna's eyes,
and, turning at once to Golenishtchev, he said:

"Do you know this Mihailov?"

"I have met him. But he's a queer fish, and quite without
breeding. You know, one of those uncouth new people one's so
often coming across nowadays, 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 both Anna and Vronsky
wanted to speak, "in former days the free-thinker was a man who
had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and
only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now
there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up
without even having heard of principles of morality or of
religion, of the existence of 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, it appears, of some
Moscow butler, and has never had any sort of bringing-up. When
he got into the academy and made his reputation he tried, as he's
no fool, to educate himself. And he turned to what seemed to him
the very source of culture--the magazines. In old times, you
see, a man who wanted to educate himself--a Frenchman, for
instance--would have set to work to study all the classics and
theologians and tragedians and historiaris and philosophers, and,
you know, all the intellectual work that came in his way. But in
our day he goes straight for the literature of negation, very
quickly assimilates all the extracts of the science of negation,
and he's ready. And that's not all--twenty years ago he would
have found in that literature traces of conflict with
authorities, with the creeds of the ages; he would have perceived
from this conflict that there was something else; but now he
comes at once upon a literature in which the old creeds do not
even furnish matter for discussion, but it is stated baldly that
there is nothing else--evolution, natural selection, struggle for
existence--and that's all. In my article I've..."

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

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

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



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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