Portrait of a Young Aristocrat
Portrait of a Young Aristocrat

Portrait of a Young Aristocrat

Author: Rusiecki Boleslaw, 1824 - 1913

Created: late 19th century.

Material / technique: oil on canvas.

Dimensions:  40x30 cm.

Signature: B. Rusiecki  (in the bottom-right corner of the painting).

Portrait of a girl is probably from the late period of the artist’s oeuvre, the end of the 19th century. A small intimate portrait represents a girl in a white dress looking straight at the viewer. Her neck is adorned by an elegant decoration, a ring on a chain, the oval shape of which repeats the oval of the girl’s face. Maybe, this decoration has a symbolic or a memorable meaning unknown to us. The main focus which at once attracts the viewer’s look is the girl’s thick and bright chestnut hair. The halo of freely falling curls surrounds the girl’s calm and unchildishly serious face. 

The composition of the picture is static and a little constrained. The girl’s face is painted absolutely full-face and only the line of her shoulders and a slight turn to the right imparts some movement to the figure. It seems likely that the artist painted this portrait from a photograph (such manner of painting was practised in the late 19th century). The portrait gains some softness and gentleness because of the faded out contours in the lower part of the canvas where the figure seem to immerse in a white cloud (a similar principle of incompleteness and sketchiness is also seen in some other small size portraits by Bolesław Rusiecki). The light background helps to render a cheerful mood and creates lightness of the image.  

Within the context of Lithuanian art history, this picture is interesting and valuable as a rare example of a portrait of a child. For a long time, portraits of children were left on the margins of portrait painting and began to spread in Europe in the 19th century, mostly in the second half of the century. That was determined by the changes in public mind and even in philosophy. More attention was paid to the relationships among family members, and childhood became appreciated as a period of innocence and purity in human life. Nevertheless, there are not many such portraits left in Lithuania. So far, identification of a portrayed person is impossible due to lack of data about the history of the picture.   

Portrait of a girl by Bolesław Rusiecki is a realistic but slightly sentimental image, which charms by a little strange combination of fairness, gentleness and seriousness.  

Reference: Expert report, 02-12-2014. Vilnius: Vilnius Academy of Arts. Signed by Dr (HP) Rūta Janonienė.

Exhibitions: "Non Academic, Bolesław Rusiecki (1824–1913)", 2024 May 7 – 2024 October 20, Vilnius Picture Gallery, Vilnius.

Published: "RES PUBLICA" The art collection of the law firm Ellex Valiunas. Compiler R. Jononienė. Vilnius, 2018, Cat. No. 75, P. 226.