Portrait of Vera Mamontova “Girl with Peaches” by Russian artist Valentin Serov
The portrait of Verochka Mamontova by Valentin Serov is one of the most striking images in Russian painting. Those who are not interested in art are also familiar with the picture. The artist often and for a long time visited the estate of the famous philanthropist and industrialist Savva Mamontov. He created a portrait of his 12-year-old daughter at 22. After that they started talking about him as a talented portrait painter. And how was Vera’s life and was she able to find happiness?
Vera Mamontova is the fourth of 5 children of Mamontov. She had three brothers and a younger sister. She received the name Vera not by chance. First, the children were given names so that the abbreviation SAVVA would be derived from the first letters: Sergey, Andrey, Vsevolod, Vera, Alexandra. Secondly, the girl’s mother was deeply religious. The childhood of the younger Mamontovs was cloudless. An atmosphere of warmth, joy and creativity reigned in their Abramtsevo estate. Talented artists, sculptors and musicians often came. At the age of two, the girl met Ivan Turgenev.
At the age of 12, Vera loved to play with other children and participate in home performances. She agreed to pose reluctantly, because this is a boring occupation. And Valentin Serov is known for drawing for a long time and conducting many sessions. In this case, the work took 3 months. According to the artist himself, he “tortured her, poor, to death.” But the result was worth it. At first, the portrait presented to Vera’s mother hung in the room where it was created. Then it was replaced by a copy: the original went to the Tretyakov Gallery.
When Vera Mamontova got older, she, following the example of her mother, began to engage in social work. Together they did a lot for the appearance of schools and workshops where peasant children from the surrounding villages could study and work. Artists who were part of her social circle also created other portraits. One of the best is Vasnetsov’s painting “Girl with a Maple Branch”.
The girl met her future husband thanks to the courses in history and literature, which she attended in Moscow. There she became friends with Sophia Samarina and began to visit her home. Sophia’s brother Alexander was captivated by the charming Faith, and she reciprocated. But an obstacle lay in the path of the lovers. The Samarin family was ancient and noble. They were related to the Volkonskys, Trubetskoy, Golitsyns and Obolenskys. The father did not even want to hear about the marriage of his son to a merchant’s daughter. Several times Alexander asked for a blessing for the marriage, but was refused. Only when the father of the family died, the young were able to start a family.
They got married in 1903 in the Moscow church of Boris and Gleb. Today there is a chapel at this place next to the Arbatskaya metro station. The newlyweds received a portrait of Vasnetsov as a gift.
Marriage and children
The Samarins were happy in their family life. From 1904 to 1907, the couple had three children: Yuri, Lisa and Sergei. The young family lived on their estate in the Pavlo-Posad region and did not know any troubles. But this prosperity lasted less than 5 years. In December 1907, Vera fell ill and died in 3 days from transient pneumonia. The young woman was only 32 years old. She was buried in her native Abramtsevo estate, where the couple were just heading for Christmas.
There is a legend that another Verin’s portrait, painted by Mikhail Vrubel, brought misfortune. In the watercolor “Tamara in a coffin” the heroine also died young. But 16 years have passed between the creation of this work and the death of Vera Samarina, so it is hardly worth attributing a mysterious and dark force to the picture.
The little children left without a mother were taken by Vera’s younger sister. Alexander Samarin lived for another 25 years, but did not remarry. In memory of his wife who passed away early, he built the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity not far from the family estate. In the 1920s, Alexander was exiled to Yakutia, where he lived with his daughter Liza. Vera’s husband died in 1932 in the Gulag.