The tragic story of the artist Chartkov began before a shop in the Shchukinsky yard, where, among the many paintings depicting peasants or landscapes, he discerned one and, having given the last twenty-ruble for her, brought home. This is a portrait of an old man in Asian clothes, it seemed unfinished, but seized by such a strong brush that the eyes in the portrait looked like alive. At home Chartkov learns that the owner came with a quarterly, demanding payment for the apartment. The annoyance of Chartkov, who had already regretted the two-folded and sitting down, in poverty, without a candle, is multiplying. He not without acrimony reflects on the fate of a young talented artist forced to humble apprenticeship, while visiting painters “just get used to it” make noise and take away a fair amount of capital. At this time, his gaze falls on the portrait, already forgotten by them, – and completely alive, even destroying the harmony of the portrait itself, the eyes frighten
him, telling him some unpleasant feeling. Going to sleep behind the screens, he sees through the cracks the portrait illuminated by the month, also glaring at him. In fear Chartkov curtains his sheet, but then his eyes seem to shine through the canvas, it seems that the sheet is torn, finally, he sees that the sheets really do not, and the old man moved and climbed out of the frames. The old man comes to him behind the screen, sits at his feet and starts counting the money, which he takes out of his bag. One bundle with the inscription “1000 chervonets” rolls aside, and Chartkov grabs it unnoticed. Desperately clutching money, he wakes up; The hand feels the weight that was just in it. After a series of successive nightmares, he wakes up late and hard. Come with the owner of the quarterly, after learning that there is no money, offers to pay for the work. The portrait of the old man attracts his attention, and, examining the canvas, he inadvertently squeezes the frames, – on the floor is dropped a well-known Chartkov package with the inscription “1000 chervontsov.”
On the same
day Chartkov pays with the owner and, consoled with stories about the treasures, drowning out the first movement to buy paint and lock himself for three years in the workshop, rent a luxury apartment on Nevsky, dress as a dandy, advertise in a walking newspaper, and the next day he accepts the customer. An important lady, describing the desired details of the future portrait of her daughter, takes her away when Chartkov seemed to just sign and was ready to grab something important in her face. The next time she remains unhappy with the apparent similarity, the yellow face and shadows under her eyes, and finally takes for the portrait the old work of Chartkov, Psyche, slightly refreshed by the annoyed artist.
In a short time Chartkov comes into fashion: grasping one common expression, he writes a lot of portraits, satisfying the most different claims. He is rich, adopted in aristocratic houses, he speaks harshly and haughtily about artists. Many who knew Chartkov before are amazed how could the talent that was so noticeable at first disappear in him. It is important, reproaches the youth for immorality, becomes a miser and once, at the invitation of the Academy of Arts, came to look at the canvas of one of the former comrades sent from Italy, sees perfection and understands the whole abyss of its fall. He locked himself in the workshop and plunged into work, but forced to stop every minute because of ignorance of elementary truths, which he neglected to study at the beginning of his career. Soon he is seized by a terrible envy, he is accepted to buy up the best works of art, and only after his imminent death from the fever, combined with consumption, it becomes clear that the masterpieces, for the purchase of which he used all of his enormous fortune, were severely destroyed by them. His death is terrible: the terrible eyes of the old man have been seen everywhere.
History Chartkova had some explanation after a short time at one of the auctions in St. Petersburg. Among the Chinese vases, furniture and paintings, many people are attracted by the amazing portrait of an Asian man whose eyes are written with such art that they seem alive. The price increases fourfold, and then the artist B. appears, declaring his special rights to this painting. In support of these words, he tells the story that happened to his father.
Having described for the beginning part of the city, called Kolomna, he describes the once-lived moneylender, a giant of Asian appearance, capable of lending any amount of anyone who wants, from the niche of the old woman to the extravagant nobles. His interest seemed small and the payment terms were very profitable, but the strange amount of the arithmetic calculations required to return was growing enormously. The most terrible thing was the fate of those who received money from the hands of the sinister Asian. The history of the young brilliant nobleman, the pernicious change in the character of which brought upon him the wrath of the Empress, culminated in his insanity and death. Life of a wonderful beauty, for the wedding with which her chosen one made a loan from a usurer, a life poisoned in one year by a poison of jealousy, intolerance and whims that suddenly appeared in the noble character of her husband. Having bitten even for the life of his wife, the unfortunate committed suicide. A lot of not so noticeable stories, as they happened in the lower classes, also associated with the usurer’s name.
The father of the narrator, a self-taught artist, intending to depict the spirit of darkness, often thought about his terrible neighbor, and one day he himself is to him and demands drawing from himself a portrait in order to remain in the picture “absolutely like a living.” The father is happy to take the case, but the better he manages to grasp the appearance of the old man, the more alive his eyes appear on the canvas, the more he is seized by a painful feeling. Not having the strength to endure the growing disgust for work, he refuses to continue, and the pleas of the old man, explaining that after his death his life will remain in the portrait with supernatural power, frightens him completely. He runs away, an unfinished portrait brings him an old man’s maid, and the usurer himself dies the next day. Over time, the artist sees a change in himself: feeling envy of his student, he harms him, in his paintings the eyes of the usurer appear. When he is going to burn a terrible portrait, he is begged by a friend. But he is forced to sell it to his nephew soon; got rid of him and nephew. The artist understands that part of the soul of the moneylender has moved into a terrible portrait, and the death of his wife, daughter and young son finally assure him of that. He places the elder in the Academy of Arts and goes to the monastery, where he leads a strict life, seeking all possible degrees of self-sacrifice. Finally, he takes up his brush and writes the whole year around the birth of Jesus. His work is a miracle filled with holiness. To his son, who came to say goodbye before traveling to Italy, he informs a lot of his thoughts about art and among some instructions, telling a story about a moneylender, conjuring to find a portrait walking on his hands and destroy it. And now, after fifteen years of vain search, the narrator finally found this portrait – and when he, and with it a crowd of listeners, turns to the wall, there is no portrait on it anymore. Someone says: “Stolen.” Maybe you are right.