A Painting by Ivan Shishkin Starring in a Detective Story

I. Shishkin. At the Mirror (Lady in a Salon Reading a Letter). 1870. Oil on canvas. 58,0 x 39,0 cm

Experts of the Czech National Gallery confirmed the authenticity of a canvas «At the Mirror» (another title «Lady in a Salon Reading a Letter») by a renowned Russian painter Ivan Shishkin. Art critics believe that the woman depicted in the painting is the artist’s wife.

For a long time the exceptional picture was «hidden» in the house of the Czech noble family Biscoup in Prague. Several art experts were aware of the painting’s location but preferred not to inform officials of the socialist Czechoslovakia. For instance, a Czech art critic Fiala described the uncharacteristic Shishkin’s work in his books, but always marked «location unknown» in the proper column. Fiala once promised to keep silence until the socialist regime fell, so to preserve the painting unharmed.

After the experts of the National Gallery stated the genuineness of the canvas, its owners did not deny their awareness of the painting’s origin as well. The oil on canvas (58.0 x 39.0 cm) dating 1870 is signed in the left side in Russian «I. Shishkin 1870».

Vera Tchedlova, the expert from the National gallery in Prague states: «Manner of painting and technological execution of the picture corresponds with other works by the artist dating the same period. In our opinion, this portrait was most likely painted by Ivan Shishkin in 1870».

Today the 86-year-old head of the Biscoup family tells that they managed to preserve the priceless canvas after nationalization of lands and castles in 1948 and confiscation of artworks in 1960. Throughout that time, the Shishkin’s masterpiece was concealed in the house.

Mother of the present elder of the family acquired the painting from Mrs. Muller, the wife of a Czech civil servant who had worked in Finland. The diplomat who was a close friend with the artist’s son-in-law, purchased the work from the Shishkin’s relative before returning to Prague.

Speaking about the future fate of the painting, Biscoup repeatedly let reporters know that he wished the painting to be returned to Russia. However, the aristocrat does not intend to make Russia a gift, and probably will auction the canvas at one of the major international sales.

Published in: on March 6, 2006 at 4:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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