Summary “Portrait”

The story “Portrait” of Gogol was written in 1833 – 1834 and entered the cycle “Petersburg Stories”. The work consists of two parts, which tell us about two different fates of artists. The link between the stories is a mystical portrait of the usurer, which had a special impact on the lives of both heroes.

Main characters

Chartkov Andrey Petrovich – a talented artist who, after acquiring a portrait of a usurer, ruined his talent by starting painting portraits to order.

The father of the artist B. is a Kolomna self-taught artist who painted pictures for the church, painted a portrait of a usurer, went to a monastery.

Other characters

The artist B. – the son of the artist who painted a portrait of the usurer, the narrator in the second part.

The moneylender is a tall dark-skinned man with large “extraordinary eyes”. By nationality he was an Indian, a Greek or a Persian, always walked in

Asian clothes.

Part 1

In the picture shop on the Shchukin yard, a young artist Chartkov bought a portrait of “the work of a high artist” for the last twenty-five. The painting depicted an “old man with a bronze-colored face, bony, stunted,” and his eyes were particularly prominent.

At home, Chartkov seems as if the old man’s eyes are staring straight at him from the picture. At some point the old man in the portrait came to life and “jumped out of the frames.” Sitting near Chartkov, he pulled out a sack from the folds of his clothes and poured out bundles of chervontsi from it. While the old man was counting the money, Chartkov imperceptibly took one of the retracted bundles. Recounting his wealth, the old man returned to the picture. All night the young man had nightmares.

In the morning to Chartkov came the owner of the dwelling with the quarter warder to find out when the young man would give money for housing. During the conversation, the quarterly, inspecting the portrait of the old man, damaged the picture frame, and one of the

bundles that the artist dreamed fell to the floor.

For the miraculously obtained money Chartkov buys new clothes, removes a beautiful apartment and advertises to the newspaper that he is ready to paint pictures to order. The first to come to him is a rich lady with her daughter Lisa. The woman asks to remove the “defects” of her daughter’s face and, in the end, the satisfied buys an unfinished sketch of the face of Psyche, taking him for a portrait of Liza.

Chartkov becomes famous in the city as an artist, he is loved in high society. He learned to draw portraits mechanically, distorting the features of faces, depicting not real people, but custom masks.

Once at an exhibition of the Academy of Arts, Chartkov was asked to evaluate the picture of his longtime friend. The hero wanted to make critical comments, but the picture was so skilfully written that he was speechless. Only now Chartkov realized how poorly he painted pictures. The hero tries to create something really worthwhile, but he does not get anything out. Chartkov orders to throw out the portrait of the old man, but it did not help.

Envious of other artists, the hero spent all his wealth on the purchase of paintings, and at home he cut them and stamped them with his feet, laughing. “It seemed as if that terrible demon whom Pushkin had ideally represented was embodied in him.” Gradually, the artist fell into insanity – the eyes of the old man from the portrait were everywhere, and he died.

Part 2

The very heat of the auction. At stake is a portrait of an “Asian” with “extraordinary vitality”. Suddenly, one of the visitors interferes in the auction – a young artist B. Young says that he has a special right to this picture and tells the story that happened with his father.

Once in Kolomna lived a usurer who could always supply the right amount of money for any person in the city. It seemed that he offered favorable conditions, but in the end people had to pay “exorbitant interest”. However, the strangest thing was that everyone who took loans from him “ended his life with an accident” – a young nobleman went insane, and the noble prince nearly killed his own wife and committed suicide.

Somehow the father of the artist B. ordered to depict the “spirit of darkness”. The man believed that the ideal prototype would be a usurer, and soon he himself came to the artist with a request to draw his portrait. However, the longer a man drew, the more disgust his work caused. When the artist said about his intention to refuse the order, the usurer rushed to his feet and begged to finish the portrait, since it only depends on it, whether he will remain in the world. In fright, the man ran home.

In the morning the maid of the usurer brought the artist an unfinished portrait, and in the evening he learned that the usurer had died. Since then, the character of a man has changed, he began to envy young artists. Somehow, when competing with his own pupil, the artist drew a picture in which “almost all the figures were given eyes of a moneylender.” In horror, the man wanted to burn the ill-fated portrait, but his friend took it from him. Right after that, the artist’s life was normal. Soon he learned that the portrait did not bring happiness to his friend, and he gave it to his nephew, who, in turn, sold the canvas to some collector of paintings.

The artist realized what a terrible thing he did when his wife, daughter and son died. Having given the eldest son to the Academy of Arts, the man goes to the monastery. For many years he did not paint paintings, begging his sin, but in the end he was persuaded to write the Nativity of Jesus. Seeing the finished picture, the monks were amazed by the skill of the artist and decided that his brush was “the holy supreme power.”

After graduation from the Academy, artist B. visits his father. He blesses and instructs his son, saying that the artist-creator must be able to find in every thing an inner “thought.” Saying goodbye, the father asks to find a portrait of the usurer and destroy it.

When the artist B. finishes his story, it turns out that the picture is gone. Apparently, someone stole it.


In the story “Portrait” NV Gogol, on the example of the fate of two artists, described two opposing approaches to the tasks of art: the consumer and the creative. The author showed how destructive for an artist can be the abandonment of his gift for money and the lack of understanding that “talent is the most precious gift of God.”

The retelling of Gogol’s Portrait will be of interest to students, students and anyone interested in classical Russian literature.

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Summary “Portrait”