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Chapter 13

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

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

"I have been struggling on for ever so long without doing
anything," he said 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 by
Golenishtchev, in whose view Vronsky had both talent, and what
was most important, culture, giving him a wider outlook on art.
Golenishtchev's faith in Vronsky's talent was propped up by his
own need of Vronsky's sympathy and approval for his own articles
and ideas, and he felt that the praise and support must be

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


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

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

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

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

Mihailov meanwhile, although Anna's portrait greatly fascinated
him, was even more glad than they were when the sittings were
over, and he had no longer to listen to Golenishtchev's
disquisitions upon art, and could forget about Vronsky's
painting. He knew that Vronsky could not be prevented from
amusing himself with painting; he knew that he and all dilettanti
had a perfect right to paint what they liked, but it was
distasteful to him. A man could not be prevented from making
himself a big wax doll, and kissing it. But if the man were to
come with the doll and sit before a man in love, and begin
caressing his doll as the lover caressed the woman he loved, it
would be distasteful to the lover. Just such a distasteful
sensation was what Mihailov felt at the sight of Vronsky's
painting: he felt it both ludicrous and irritating, both pitiable
and offensive.

Vronsky's interest in painting and the Middle Ages did not last
long. He had enough taste for painting to be unable to finish
his picture. The picture 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 had nothing to say, and
continually deceived himself with the theory that his idea was
not yet mature, that he was working it out and collecting
materials. This exasperated and tortured Golenishtchev, but
Vronsky was incapable of deceiving and torturing himself, and
even more incapable of exasperation. With his characteristic
decision, without explanation or apology, he simply ceased
working at painting.

But without this occupation, the life of Vronsky and of Anna, who
wondered at his loss of interest in it, struck them as
intolerably tedious in an Italian town. The palazzo suddenly
seemed so obtrusively old and dirty, the spots on the curtains,
the cracks in the floors, the broken plaster on the cornices
became so disagreeably obvious, and the everlasting sameness of
Golenishtchev, and the Italian professor and the German traveler
became so wearisome, that they had to make some change. They
resolved to go to Russia, to the country. In Petersburg Vronsky
intended to arrange a partition of the land with his brother,
while Anna meant to see her son. The summer they intended to
spend on Vronsky's great family estate.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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