Brought to your gracious attention
illustrations for Table Talk 1882 project
(Based on B. Akunin’s book of the same name)

Issued regularly

14 January, 2004

Chapter Three

Contents: Matter of taste. — Expert look. — Where do you want the hooks, sir? — Combining and compositing. — Exhibition outfit. — Would you leave these shadows?


At this point the reader can choose one of the possible plot lines. The author’s idea was that it should be done through paintings by Karl Pavlovich Brullov.

Let it be.


Matter of taste.

We need to decorate the Odintsova salon with paintings supposedly attributed to the great portraitist. The works are to be distinctly different in mood:
— bloodthirsty;
— pastoral;
— frivolous nude;
— mystic, which Brullov doesn’t have, but we should create one.

All four of them will hang on the same wall, so their format and relative positions are of much importance as this could help us to best convey the author’s message.


Expert look.

Analyzing Brullov’s artistic manner, we absolutely unintentionally discovered some discrepancies and borrowings. For instance, in the famous painting “Italian Midday” the shadows from ladder rungs do not agree with the overall lighting. The artist must have made drafts at different times of day and did not correct that afterwards.

It is easy to locate the light source—by the glare on the grapes, by the shadow on the girl’s face, by the light and shade on her body and on the leaves. The arrow shows conventional direction of sunlight. Marked by circles are the wrong shadows.



Where do you want the hooks, sir?

We decide on the layout and the format of the paitings.



Combining and compositing.

We think up the stories and make drafts for the four canvases focusing on their composition and format.

Murder was a typical subject in those days and suits well for the “bloodthirsty” painting. The draft is based on “Death of Inessa de Castro, Morganatic Wife of Portuguese Infant Don Pedro.”

The final variant depicts a double murder. This could be the case of a confidant servant who stood up for his mistress in the face of mortal danger and got killed first. And then, as we know, Inessa was killed.


Frivolous nude. We make a draft for “Virsavia” in the horizontal format required by the layout.

In a draft with the mistress lying down, not seating near the pool, the artist does not yet introduce a black maidservant to increase the contrast and bring out the white of Virsavia’s skin.


We complete the missing fragments and leave the background almost flat—the way it is done in most portraits by Brullov.


We’ve already mentioned earlier that Brullov did not paint mysticism. Lets try to make up for this “deficiency.”


We will use central composition, low horizon and harsh light from down below to intensify the expression on the character’s face.

We sought for the right dynamics studying the canvases…


…and doing regular photosessions.



Exhibition outfit.

The frames are not the least important either. We go to the State Tretyakov Gallery to fish for some.


We single out the framing and carving that can emphasize the emotional orientation of our paintings.


Would you leave these shadows?

We put drape on the walls, hang the paintings, light the sconces.

Constructing shadows for 3 light sources: two sconces and a fireplace (not in the final version).


The ultimate version of a wall fragment in Odintsova Velvet salon. Image size — 2100×1600 px

(To be continued.)

Narrated by Andrey Tikhanov



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