Ivan Kramskoy. Unknown Woman.
Oil on canvas.
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Unknown Woman is the title of the picture, which the artist gave to it. Many contemporaries were indignant with the painting, “Coquette in a carriage”, “Women of her sort”, “Product of big cities”, critics said. Tretyakov refused to buy the depiction of “immoral woman” for his gallery. The artist was sad that his viewers did not understand him and never gave explanations to the painting. The later viewers saw in the woman Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the more later - the Unknown Woman of Blok.
24 April 1906, Ozerki
Above the restaurants in the evenings
The sultry air is wild and still,
And the decaying breath of spring
Drives drunken shouting.
Above the dusty distant lanes
The boredom of summer homes,
The baker's gold sign barely shines
And a child's crying rings out.
Each night, beyond the crossing gates,
With bowler hats tipped rakishly,
The practiced wits stroll with
Among the drainage ditches.
Out on the lake, oarlocks creak
And a woman starts to squeal,
While up in the sky, inured to it all,
The moon's disk senselessly leers.
Each night my solitary friend
Is reflected in my glass,
Made meek and reeling, like myself,
By the mysterious, astringent liquid.
And drowsy lackeys lounge about
Beside the adjacent tables
While drunks with rabbit eyes cry out
"In vino veritas!"
And each night at a certain hour
(Or am I only dreaming it?),
A girl's figure, swathed in silk,
Moves across the misty window.
And slowly passing among the drunks,
Always alone and unescorted,
Wafting a breath of perfume and mist,
She takes a table by the window.
And an air of ancient legend
Wreaths her resilient silks,
Her hat with its funereal plumes,
And her slender ringed hand.
And entranced by this strange nearness,
I look through her dark veil,
And see an enchanted shore
And a horizon enchanted.
Deep secrets are entrusted to me,
Someone's sun is in my care,
And at every turn, astringent wine
Pierces my soul.
And drooping ostrich plumes
Waver in my brain,
And fathomless blue eyes
Bloom on the distant shore.
A treasure lies in my soul,
And the key belongs to me alone!
You are correct, you drunken fiend!
I know it: wine brings truth.
A. Wachtel, I. Kutik and M. Denner