Vrubel has relatively few portraits, although he was a keen physiognomist, not worse, for example, Serov; the portrait resemblance was given to him jokingly, and he expressed with remarkable acuity the individual. But there is a special feature in his portraits – the propensity to lift those he writes over the ordinary, to bring to the world his titans or fairy-tale heroes. The portrait genre as a chronicle of manners, types and characters was alien to Vrubel. He avoided painting portraits by order, especially those who did not care.
“Business man” – Savva Ivanovich Mamontov – Vrubel wrote otherwise. If we compare the portrait of Artsybushev and the portrait of Savva Mamontov (both written in 1897), then for the beginning we can note a great difference
The individual is erected in a monumental, heroic plan, but at the same time remains completely individual and concrete – this is the remarkable feature of the portrait of Mamontov, worthy of standing next to the portraits of Velasquez’s brush. The fervent disposition of Sawa Mamontov is expressed regally, not every day. Frax and lacquered shoes do not in the least reduce the image, as well as the whole – quite authentic – cabinet environment: mahogany furniture, red carpet, fleecy velvet seat seats. All these accessories are no less noble and gorgeous than the surroundings of some Venetian doge or Spanish grandee. But they usually sit quietly, while the Russian “colossus in dress coat”, grasping one arm at the arm of the chair, impatiently squeezes the other into the fist, as if making an effort not to jump-just a white shirt-front, like a stove,
By this amazing portrait, the artist himself was justly proud of himself. After he had not seen him for a long time and saw him again in the house of Mamontov in 1904, he wrote to his wife: “The portrait of S. I. really as expression, planting, strength of tongue and the delicacy of accessories directly fascinated me. A extremely brave and beautiful technique and everything that’s done is more than truthful – colorful and sonorous… Today I see that Zornu is far away from my portrait [the Swedish artist Zorn also made a portrait of SI Mamontov], and Serov does not have the hardness of technique : he takes the right tone, the right drawing, but in neither of them there is no pressure, no excitement. “