Karl Pavlovich Briullov (1799-1852) Portrait of Anatole Demidoff, Prince de San-Donato signed, dated and inscribed 'C. Brulloff Rome 1829' (lower right) pencil and watercolor on paper laid down on board 10½ x 9 in. (26.7 x 22.9 cm.) Painted in 1829
Karl Briullov was born into a family of artists. His father, two brothers, his great-grandfather and grandfather were all painters. He studied historical and portraiture painting at the Imperial Academy of Arts (Imperatorskaia akademiia khudozhestv) from 1809-1921 under A. I. Ivanov and A. E. Egorov. His professors sensed his talent from his earliest works at the academy; their presentiment came to realization after the painting Three Angels Appear to Abraham near the Oak of Mamre , which won him a gold medal and an honorary diploma. It also led to a trip to Italy under the scholarship funded by the Society for the Support and Encouragement of Artists (Obshchestvo Pooshchreniia Khudozhnikov) with his brother Alexander. He stayed in Italy for the next decade and learned much of his techniques from the surrounding works of art of Italian masters. In Italy he rose to fame, being one of the first Russian artists to reach such popularity abroad. There Briullov created over 120 portraits in diverse techniques. Among them are portraits of the Russian aristocracy residing in Italy. During these years, he first developed a new tendency, which had not been visible in Russian classical painting. Though he continued to represent his subjects with a Romantic air he depicted them realistically and compellingly moving away from the formal style of portraiture evident in his earlier works. In Portrait of Anotole Demidoff, Prince de San-Donato , we see the beginning of his maturity as we can sense the status of his subject but also view his humanly characteristics that are illustrated in the face of the young moor and the prince. The palette used in this work, soft blues, reds and pinks for the costumes are infused by the mellow white background with the figures fading into the abyss of the unknown, these features are typically seen in his artworks and represent the contradicting nature of his craft which he was able to unite on paper and canvas. Briullov traveled extensively throughout Europe and returned to Russia where he lived in St. Petersburg from 1836 until 1849 and taught at the Imperial Academy of Arts. He died in Rome in 1852.