Mikhail Vrubel


Portrait of Vova Mamontov reading, 1890’s

Pencil on paper
15 x 8 cm

Titled in Russian Вова читает книгу и видит… (Vova is reading a book and sees…) at top and Boka lower right


Artist’s family, Moscow

A.B. Yumashev, Moscow

N.A. Sokolov, Moscow

Thence by descent

James Butterwick, Moscow


Mikhail Vrubel 100 years since his birth – MOSKH, Moscow, 1956 (no. 38)

Mikhail Vrubel – Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1956 (no. 129, ill.)

Mikhail Vrubel – Russian Museum, Leningrad, 1957 (no. 129, ill.)

Mikhail Vrubel – Museum of Omsk, June – July 1996 (no. 2, ill.)

Mikhail Vrubel – Museum of Private Collectors, Moscow, August – September 1996 (no. 2, ill.)

Mikhail Vrubel – Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, February – July 1997 (no. 128, ill.)

Russian Line – Sotheby’s, Moscow, 12 March – 30 March 2012 (p. 4, ill.)

Acquisitions & Loans – James Butterwick Gallery, London, 30 May – 7 July 2012

Portrait behind the curtain – VDNKh, Moscow, December 2016 – March 2017, (p. 12, ill.)


Mikhail Vrubel – P.K. Suzdalyev, Sovietsky Khudozhnik, Moscow, 1991 (p. 77, ill.)

Russian Art: A Personal Choice – Kit-Art, Moscow, 2004 (p. 4, ill.)

Russian Works on Paper from the Collection of James Butterwick – Kit-Art, Moscow, 2011 (p. 4, ill.)


Expertise of Elena Zhukova, Moscow


Unusually for Vrubel, the image appears to be formed from a series of vertical pencil strokes. It is difficult to imagine that the drawing, such was the artist’s mastery of technique, took him anything other than a few minutes but the effect is stunning. From the relatively haphazard style of the vertical lines the face is a study in detail, but detail a la Vrubel. The shading shows the lightest touches of the pencil but the eyes are angular, likewise the beard. These almost cubist elements are repeated in the type face of the book that Mamontov is reading. The artist in the inscription tells the viewer that the sitter is reading but exactly what? The book is huge and on its surface are geometric motifs. How is this possible in the 1890’s? Herewith is the mystery of Vrubel revealed.