THE OLD neglected palazzo, with its lofty carved ceilings and frescoes on the walls, with its floors of mosaic, with its heavy yellow stuff curtains on the windows, with its vases on pedestals, and its open fireplaces, its carved doors and gloomy reception-rooms, hung with picturesthis palazzo did much, by its very appearance after they had moved into it, to confirm in Vronsky the agreeable illusion that he was not so much a Russian country gentleman, a retired army officer, as an enlightened amateur and patron of the arts, himself a modest artist who had renounced the world, his connections, and his ambition for the sake of the woman he loved.
The pose chosen by Vronsky with their removal into the palazzo was completely successful, and having, through Golenishtchev, made acquaintance with a few interesting people, for a time he was satisfied. He painted studies from nature under the guidance of an Italian professor of painting, and studied mediæval Italian life. Mediæval Italian life so fascinated Vronsky that he even wore a hat and flung a cloak over his shoulder in the mediæval style, which, indeed, was extremely becoming to him.
Here we live, and know nothing of whats going on, Vronsky said to Golenishtchev as he came to see him one morning. Have you seen Mihailovs picture? he said, handing him a Russian gazette he had received that morning, and pointing to an article on a Russian artist, living in the very same time, and just finishing a picture which had long been talked about, and had been bought beforehand.
I cant understand how they can fall into such a gross mistake. Christ always has His definite embodiment in the art of the great masters. And therefore, if they want to depict, not God, but a revolutionist or a sage, let them take from history a Socrates, a Franklin, a Charlotte Corday, but not Christ. They take the very figure which cannot be taken for their art, and then
I should say not. Hes a remarkable portrait-painter. Have you ever seen his portrait of Madame Vassiltchikov? But I believe he doesnt care about painting any more portraits, and so very likely he is in want. I maintain that
Why mine? said Anna. After yours I dont want another portrait. Better have one of Annie (so she called her baby girl). Here she is, she added, looking out of window at the handsome Italian nurse, who was carrying the child out into the garden, and immediately glancing unnoticed at Vronsky. The handsome nurse, from whom Vronsky was painting a head for his picture, was the one hidden grief in Annas life. He painted with her as his model, admired her beauty and mediævalism, and Anna dared not confess to herself that she was afraid of becoming jealous of this nurse, and was for that reason particularly gracious and condescending both to her and her little son. Vronsky, too, glanced out of window and into Annas eyes, and, turning at once to Golenishtchev, he said
I have met him. But hes a queer fish, and quite without breeding. You know, one of those uncouth new people ones so often coming across nowadays, one of those free-thinkers, you know, who are reared demblée in theories of atheism, scepticism, and materialism. In former days, said Golenishtchev, not observing, or not willing to observe, that both Anna and Vronsky wanted to speak, in former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existence of authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything, that is to say, savages. Well, hes of that class. Hes the son, it appears, of some Moscow butler, and has never had any sort of bringing-up. When he got into the academy and made his reputation he tried, as hes no fool, to educate himself. And he turned to what seemed to him the very source of culturethe magazines. In old times, you see, a man who wanted to educate himselfa Frenchman, for instancewould have set to work to study all the classics and theologians and tragedians and historians and philosophers, and, you know, all the intellectual work that came in his way. But in our day he goes straight for the literature of negation, very quickly assimilates all the extracts of the science of negation, and hes ready. And thats not alltwenty years ago he would have found in that literature traces of conflict with authorities, with the creeds of the ages; he would have perceived from this conflict that there was something else; but now he comes at once upon a literature in which the old creeds do not even furnish matter for discussion, but it is stated baldly that there is nothing elseevolution, natural selection, struggle for existenceand thats all. In my article Ive
I tell you what, said Anna, who had for a long while been exchanging wary glances with Vronsky, and knew that he was not in the least interested in the education of this artist, but was simply absorbed by the idea of assisting him and ordering a portrait of him; I tell you what, she said, resolutely interrupting Golenishtchev, who was still talking away, lets go and see him!
An hour later Anna, with Golenishtchev by her side and Vronsky on the front seat of the carriage, facing them, drove up to a new ugly house in the remote suburbs. On learning from the porters wife, who came out to them, that Mihailov saw visitors at his studio, but that at that moment he was in his lodging only a couple of steps off, they sent her to him with their cards, asking permission to see his picture.