1846 - 1910


Prakhov portrait by Kramskoy

Prakhov (Adrian Viktorovich) - an art and archeology historian, was born in 1846. He studied in Saint Petersburg in a secondary school then at university, department of history and philology, in 1867 got a candidate degree and soon he was sent to outland for preparation to occupation of a chair of history of fine art.


In Munich he listened to lectures of G.F. Brunn and other scientists, he learned Classical Greek art monuments, collected in a glypthoteca and then visited Paris, London, Berlin, and other items of Italy, Vienna, studying everywhere both ancient and new artworks.


      After returning to motherland, in 1873, he received a master degree for a thesis -On restoration of a group of eastern fronton of Aeginetan cathedral in Athena- ("Commentary of Imperial Academy of Science", 1870), he was chosen as one of the docents of this university.


      In 1875 - 1878 was editing a pictorial "Pchela"/ "Bee".


      Since 1875 to 1887, except the university lectures, he taught history and theory of fine art in the Imperial Academy of Art.


      In 1879, after defence of the thesis "Architecture of Ancient Egypt", he received a degree of doctor.


     Then addicted himself to study of ancient monument of art in Russia of Christian period, in 1880 - 1882, he investigated and copied remains of mosaic and wall painting in Sophia cathedral and wall-painting of Kirillo church in Kyiv.


      In 1881 - 1882 he was traveling in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Greek and European Turkey, in 1886 he researched Assumption cathedral in town of Vladimir-Volinsk and some other ancient cathedrals of Volyn, in 1886 - 1887 he visited again Italy and the East, in 1887 he opened and copied interesting wall-painting in a church of Mykhailo Zlatoverkh Monastery in Kyiv and in the same year passed from Saint-Petersburg university to Kyiv university (saint Vladimir one) to chair of history of fine art which he held till 1897.


      Since 1884 till 1896 he lead interior finishing of new-built Vladimir cathedral in Kyiv, besides for clarification of archeological angle of this deal he made successively two trips to eastern countries.


      In 1896 he was concerned with arrangement according to own design of precious shrine for relics of saint Theodosius of Ugli in Chernigov.


      In 1897 he returned to his former chair in Saint-Petersburg University.


      Leading of painting of Vladimir cathedral in Kyiv was undoubtedly the main deal of life of professor Prakhov.


      One must say that during the whole period of delayed work the eccentric Prokhorov family was in the epicenter of life of "cathedral" artists, called by citizens of Kyiv. They were constant guests of Prakhov family, living in a house at the corner of Vladimiska and Bolshaya Zhitomirskaya streets. All nature of people was there in those years: members of paintings, important officials, patrons, clergy, creative youth. And all had to consider temper of Prakhov family. Wife of the professor always set the pace in the house - lively and witty Emiliya Lvovna. Certainly younger children helped her - Koka (future art historian Nikolai Prakhov) and Olya. They permanently made jokes and many serious guests lost aplomb searching their hats which hanged high at ceiling before leave, or prying out from the floor nailed galoshes.


  Emilia    Emiliya Prakhova, though being not a beauty, was very charming and men vied in paying court to her. Kindly receiving worship, she however did not forgive fancies of his amorous husband. Catching the another love affair of Adrian Viktorovich and making a violent scene for him, Emiliya as usual disappeared from the house for some time. And "cathedral" artists as usually all together went and sought. But when the hostess returned home, the door in the room was closed behind her for a long time from which flew charming and sad music - the result of masterful play the grand piano. The whole house at the same time being charmed listened to her mind-bending performance.


    It was connected a lot of mystic things with Prakhov family. So, in 1885 during vice-governor Baumgarten and Adrian Prakhov visit of the cathedral for both of them it appeared an apparition of the Holy Mother with the child on the freshly plastered altar wall. There were rumors about the miraculous appearance of the Holy Mother face which reached the metropolitan. The metropolitan asked Prakhov to write a note for newspaper and to explain people that there was no miracle that the image was only a result of spots which appeared on the fresh plaster from moisture. Prakhov did it.


      Relationship of Vrubel and Prakhov


      In picturesque place, on one of Kyiv steeps stands a little cathedral - Kirillo church. Previously it was a St. Kirill monastery cathedral, later - a church at charitable institution for insane (now - Pavlov Kiev city psychoneurological clinical hospital or simply "Pavlovskaya" as it is called by citizens of Kyiv).


      Art historians hardly meet their opinions - what is more valuable in this church:

      the cathedral and XII century Old Russian painting saved in it, or icons and painting made by great Russian artist Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel.. The ancient walls, unique ancient wall-painting and sophisticated image of saints, their unusual eyes as if looking into soul, painted with pencil of the great master - all this makes unforgettable impression.


      Kirillo church became the order of the day for society in 60-th years of XIX century: there were found Old Russian paintings under plaster ofWrobel XVIII century in its walls. Municipal authority arrived at a decision about their reconstruction and at the same time restoration of the church in whole.. The works began in 80-th, general management was delegated to Professor Adrian Viktorovich Prakhov, which despite rather young age (then he was not even forty) was known expert in a branch of Old Russian art.


      From memories of A.V. Prakhov:


      "Afraid that in my absence the committee, dealing with means (for restoration of Kirill church) shall delegate painting of icons to a local artist icon-dauber, I took charge of finding in Petersburg a talented scholar of Academy of Arts which could perform this order in Kyiv not leaving the means scantily supplied under budget. I could not fulfill this matter at once in Petersburg arriving in autumn for reading lectures in the University ... At last I organized myself and went directly to the Academy of arts to my old friend P.P. Chistyakov.-


      Telling about discovering of ancient painting in Kyiv Sophia, about found and kept without restoration by him in the church of former Kirill monastery, Adrian Viktorovich asked to recommend somebody from scholars "who would agree to come to Kiev and to paint for 1200 Roubles, with its materials, four icons on zinc boards for single-stage marble icon-stand in Byzantine style-.


      -I just finished the work as some one knocked at the door.

      - Come in! - shouted P.P Chistyakov.

      The door of the workshop opened and a young thin and slim man of middle height, with rather big folder in hands, entered the room. His face was not of Russian type. He was dressed nattily in student dress, even with a sward which students unwillingly carried at that time.

      - A-ha - the ball comes to the player! Here is the artist! I cannot recommend anybody better, more talented and more appropriate for fulfillment of your order...-.



      Prakhov and young Vrubel, who recently was 27, quickly came to understanding. In spring of 1884 in the flat of Prakhov appeared -a slight, blond and shy young man with chiseled features...- (N.└. Prakhov).

     There is a memorial plate devoted to the artist on the house No. 6/11 surviving up to date in Bolshaya Zhitomirskay street.


      There he met wife of Adrian Viktorovich - Emiliya Lvovna, 32 year old mother of three children, gifted and educated young woman, which was life and soul of Kiev art society.


      It will pass a very little time and Vrubel passionately will fall in love with her, she will become his Beautiful Lady, muse and inspiration but partly and a reason of the fact that talent of Vrubel shall not be implemented in Kiev inasmuch as the artist would like himself and many generations of Kiev citizens.


      Emiliya Lvovna was not a classical beauty but many her contemporaries remained memories about her wonderful bottomless eyes and fervent restless temper.


      Mikhail Aleksandrovich passed almost all evenings in house by Prakhov family. Adrian Viktorovich found in him an associate, an earnest pupil and thankful listener. They discussed the work on restoration of wall-painting and creation of new painting in the cathedral, viewed and studied albums of Byzantine painting, brought by Prakhov from trips through Europe.


      And the artist conducted long talks with Emiliya Lvovna about all kinds of themes: about music, poetry, the newest French literature, conquering readers at that time, and simply about life.


      From memories of Nikolai Adrianovich Prakhov:


      -Staying on the way to Kirillovskoy by us in the country, Mikhail Aleksandrovich took a random children drawing book of my elder sister and began to picture in it or to paint with water an image of someone from members of the family, most often the mother at any work. Usually he did not carry out these works. Tracing with a thin brush brown color the main key drawing, Mikhail Aleksandrovich began painting from any color patch interested for him and light effect;

face as well known he always left "for the future" and that-s why he seldom carried out the work-.


      The work in Vrubel was added - some artists, involved to the restoration for a number of reasons refuse the orders and Mikhail Aleksandrovich willingly replace them.


     Despite heavy workload and fascination with which Vrubel fulfills the work, he with his recklessness usual for him manages to have a rather "free" life - there - flying amourettes appear around him, he spends the very little money for them he has for the work, sometimes he disappears suddenly and without warning somewhere for some days.


      N.└. Prakhov:


      -Mikhail Aleksandrovich was honest with our mother and she, under openness of her lively disposition and directness, could sometimes give him a piece of mind with all her heart, be free of so called "social conveniences".


      Vrubel more and more became attached to Emiliya Lvovna. Talks with her - joy and revelation for him.


      Letter of M.└. Vrubel to sister,

      Kiev, November 1884:


      -Anyuta, dear, forgive me. I was sorry when I did not wrote for months because of failure to disposition of time and laziness, when the period grew almost for a year and a half; and the reason was inexcusable egoism, setting of main mess in front of the real life goals. One wonderful man (ah, Anya, how wonderful people can be!) told me: -You think too much about yourself; this is the reason which hinders your life and afflicts those whom you think you love, and in fact you shadow by yourself everything in different theatrical poses-...No, more simply and more like: -love should be active and selfless-. All this is simple and for me appeared new before this. I did a lot of insignificant and useless for this year and a half, and I see with bitterness how much I should cultivate my abilities ...

      Sincerely your brother Misha.-


      Vrubel has fallen in love. He wants to grant his canvases to Emiliya Lvovna. A draft of future masterpiece "Eastern fairy tales" - she refused to take referring that such canvases were worth keeping in museum:


      -- When you drop by us unnecessary for you, unfinished drafts or gifts me some little work - I can take it from you as a keepsake, but this "Eastern fairy tale" - is rather serious, quite finished thing. Show it to Ivan Nikolych (I.N. Tereshchenko - Kiev patron, owner of the collection becoming the base of art museums of Kiev), he will buy it willingly for his collection. - Ah, you do not want?! - cried Vrubel and immediately tore the water painting for some pieces, threw it on the floor and leaved without saying good bye to anybody-.


      When some days later he came with regrets, Emiliya Lvovna gave him back an envelope with the saved pieces. Later he used some of them, sticking them on the paper and painting everything else.


      N.└. Prakhov:

      -Our mother had wonderful eyes of dark-sapphire colorant prettily outlined lips ... In the family is saved a very interesting  picture made with Italian pencil, where the half form of the mother sidewise is depicted, bent over a work... Probably, the mother left the work and left the room, and Vrubel turned this piece of Whatman paper and drew out for three quarter of the head turn, the same face in other plan as it appeared to him as appropriate for Holy Mother type.


      So, pushing off the quite real first picture in profile, after the second one, with a hint for the future image, he created the third picture from memory lying in State Tretyakov gallery... There is a brushstroke of oils on hair from the left side, with light ochre, this is Vrubel, seeing his picture in our house, told:


      - Now I repaint the whole face with oils - he opened his box of paints and painted.


      By fortune, the mother called everybody for breakfast. Mikhail Aleksandrovich came ahead and we with the sister decided that he only would ruin the picture during repainting and hid it behind the case. We knew already according to the observations how he was unsteady for work, often beginning and giving up if something recalled him even for short time.


      Such situation was now. Not finding the picture in the place he left it, Vrubel did not begin asking where the picture was, he closed the box of paints, said good-bye to everybody and went home.


      The last, the fourth working picture of the Holy Mother he pictured on the half of sheet, whatman paper -torchon" on the reverse side of beautiful watercolor "Bunch of flower". Here, on the picture, made from memory, there is a great similarity with the original, which gave the artist an idea of the Holy Mother face ...-


      Adrian Prakhov is posed and in some kind annoyed by those feelings which the young artist has to his wife. He offers Vrubel to go to Italy - in order to get to know better the work of old masters, and at the same time to finish the very same four icons for altar: "Jesus Christ", "Saint Athanasius", "Saint Kirill", the "Holy Mother with Child".


      Mikhail Aleksandrovich did not go farther Venice. The icons should have been made on great zinc boards - but they did not aid trips. Further, he aimed to finish the work as soon as possible and return to Kiev.


      Letter of M.A. Vrubel to sister,

      Venice, February 26 (March 10) 1885:

      -...Now you can suppose that I as an Italian has a bulk of things to write about. And you are mistaken. However happened in such a way as I waited for: as I wrote to the father, I turn over my Venice (in which I stay permanently because the order is on heavy zinc boards, which are not for rolling) as a useful special book but not as poetical fancies. The interesting thing I find in it - it is interesting only for my palette. In short, I can hardly wait end of my work to return home. Material and live is under destruction and in motherland. And why especially I want to return home? This matter is connected with soul and I shall explain it to you in summer when we meet. And the thing I hinted you twice and did not hint it to other persons ...-.


      Then, moderateness of Vrubel - even in letters to the closest person, the sister, - could not hide his emotional secret. The very palette which drank in and gave to the canvas and paper the impression about Italy testified here and about feelings of the artist to the "wonderful person", who stayed in Kiev. Probably, photographs of Emiliya Lvovna, taken by himself to Venice, were the main source of inspiration for him.


      Mikhail Aleksandrovich took from Italy the finished icons for Kirill church. There is an icon the "Holy Mother with Child" among them which shall be called later the top of work of young Vrubel. The acquaintances faultlessly recognized lineaments of Emiliya Prakhova in an image of the Holy Mother. And an image of Christ child became a beautiful portrait of her little daughter Olya.


      When and how happened the final explanation of Emiliya Lvovna with Mikhail Aleksandrovich, we hardly shall know. Heartache was great and he tried to kill it with physical pain. Many years later Vrubel who was unwilling to tell about his past, mentioned to his friend, an artist K. Korovin:


      -I cut myself with knife. Would you understand? I loved the woman, she did not love me -

      she even loved my, but a lot of different things hindered her to understand me. I suffered and when I cut myself, suffering was decreasing-.


      In 1885 the works in Kirill church were finished and Vrubel left for Odessa, in order to come back soon to Kiev.


      Meanwhile in Kiev there were preparatory works for appearance of new church - Saint Vladimir cathedral. The cathedral was established even in 1862, and it was planned to finish its construction to 900-th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia (1888) but because of supply of poor materials and mistakes in design calculations, the construction being just in beginning was stopped for ten years. In 1882 when construction of the cathedral at last drew to a close, professor I. Malyshevsky proposed an unusual concept of its appearance - inside the cathedral should have a view of an Old Russian church of prince Vladimir epoch time.


      Adrian Prakhov who had the established reputation of an expert of Kievan Rus art immediately offered his services of project planning. In 1885 he was appointed a head of building committee and entrusted an execution of the cathedral. The main executor of painting became Viktor Vasnetsov, who thoughtfully studied original old Russian mosaic of Sophia cathedral and painting of Kirill church found recently, for restoration of which Vrubel was working at that time, and selflessly started working.


      Why Vrubel did not take part in painting of this church? Historians of art have an opinion that the decisive role at that time played nothing else but strains in terms of Vrubel and Adrian Prakhov.


     Mikhail Aleksandrovich knew about plans on execution of Vladimir cathedral and dreamed to take part in this work. By the time of completion of works in Kirill church he already had a lot of drafts of painting for saint Vladimir cathedral. He worked on them both in Kiev and in Venice. But the works are distributed without him, except the most talented Vasnetsov and Nesterov, Prakhov invites polish artists Kotarbinsky and Svedomsky which enjoyed popularity at that time and which were paid considerable fees despite constantly cut cost sheet.


     Disregard of him by Prakhov Vrubel perceives as personal mortal offence. But, coming back in Kiev from Odessa and getting cold a bit, he, nevertheless, came to Prakhov and offered him his help in development even though of separate elements of painting.


      Later Adrian Viktorovich trying to explain non-participation of Vrubel in the main works on execution of Vladimir cathedral of which he was accused even while alive, did not conceal personal reasons:


      -I had to lead creation of Vladimir cathedral. I delivered this deal into hands of V. Vasnetsov... At that time we did not come to understanding with Vrubel solely because of personal reasons. In 1886 I had to leave for East again for additional research and I did not have any information about Vrubel for a long time ... Only in 1887, when the works in the cathedral were at full speed, Vrubel came to me and asked could I take him to work with again. I offered him to paint the ark opposite the entrance by himself.. I understood all uniqueness of Vrubel talent and I wanted to give him such a work where he would be least limited with general plan and character of painting-.


      Vrubel set to any work in Vladimir cathedral. He was offered to paint ceiling lamp -5-th day of Creation of World-, and he did it, but the work was not accepted by the construction committee which preliminary was approving the draft of Svedomsky. The reason was that that the work Vrubel performed was much different in stylistic from the draft. And the work was repainted by the other artist. The Vrubel draft "Anastasis" was not approved too. One more idea - -Descent of the holy spirit on apostles- was not even implemented into the draft staying a pencil drawing - it did not fit the general plan of the cathedral painting.


      After rejection of works of one of the artists involved for paintings, Vrubel had a chance to paint walls of one of the cathedral stairs, it was even chosen a theme --Life of Vladimir- Red Sun-, but soon it got about that in Petersburg the construction committee at Ministry of Internal Affairs cut the cost sheet for completion of interior finishing of the cathedral. As a result Vrubel got only performance of some ornaments which now are shown by Kiev guides for guests of the city.


      His original drafts for execution of Vladimir cathedral Mikhail Aleksandrovich showed Prakhov already the day before his move to Moscow in 1889.


      New love and happy marriage, financial difficulties which became habitual, supporting of friend and admirers, sharp rejection of his art by educational community and reverberating fame, illness and ...asylum waited for Vrubel in future.


      Prakhov family continued its settled provincial life in Kiev. When in 1902 newspapers got at last the main scandal in biography of the artist rich for scandals, appeared heads "Author of "Demon" went mad!-, Prakhov family were at the center of attention of Kiev audience. All interested whether -oddity- was peculiar to Vrubel during living in Kiev? And the fact that the thing which 20 years ago appeared only a harmless joke suddenly acquired a contour of unlucky omen. It came back to memory such a story, for instance.


      N.└. Prakhov:


      -One day, after ╠.└. Vrubel painted ornaments in the cathedral, he was packing his materials in the box being about "finishing of work", about going to the city in confectionery -Zhorzha-, and from there - to have dinner by us. Svedomsy turned his attention to the fact that tip of the nose was stained a bit with green paint. Mikhail Aleksandrovich thanked, looked at himself in the glass, and then instead of washing off the small spot with pine-oil he took spring green color "Veronese green" with a finger and thoroughly painted the whole nose. Then he went according to the chosen way, engaging all eyes of passers-by and surprising sellers of the confectionery.


      The mother minded him by us:


      -Mikhail Aleksandrovich, you accidently stained the whole nose with green color!


      - No, Emiliya Lvovna, - he answered her quite serious, - I did it on purpose - such it is much prettily! After all woman make up, why so men should not do it? But not in the way women do it. Now people still do not understand, but soon all men shall paint their nose with different colors depending on their nature and temperament. One fits yellow, the other one - blue or red, the third one - purple. This green color suits me for instance. It will be very fine!


      Mama took it as a joke and advised to go to bath-room and thoroughly wash with hot water before dinner and he did so-.


      It was and another case. In full swing of the work over painting of Vladimir cathedral Vrubel came to Prakhov family for supper extraordinarily confused and silent. For the warm-hearted question about health he suddenly answered: -Father died, I need to go to Kharkov to bury him-. The acquaintances of Vrubel, sitting at the table, blindsided with the sudden information, knowing about his constant lack of money, collected some amount of money in such a way he could not see it, and ordered one of the people to accompany Mikhail Aleksandrovich to the station. Vrubel did not abandon help - he had no money even for buying tickets - and the very evening he was got in a train going to Kharkov.


      What a surprise for Prakhov family was when on the next day an unknown military man came with words: -Report to professor - here is colonel Vrubel-. It was really father of Mikhail Aleksandrovich, coming to visit the son. Of course, nobody could not inform him that the son "went to bury him". The father explained the sudden departure of Mikhail for he as some casual passion of youth, such thing happened earlier too.


      A lot of time later Vrubel came back to Kiev, he was not told about coming of the father, moreover he was not asked about the "burial". And he behave as if nothing had happened - as if there had not been that evening and sudden departure from the city. It seemed he really did not remember about that all.


      These stories quickly became available to Kiev public gladly tattling about -genius and desperation-.


      Information about Vrubel was coming to Kiev regularly. The illness has been able to be stopped by help of doctors and Mikhail Aleksandrovich got a short rest -  a possibility to live with the family and even to work. But soon the illness became evident again, condition of Vrubel changed for the worse and he appeared again in the asylum. In 1910 he was gone.


      Emiliya Lvovna survived Vrubel for 17 years. The got the separation from each other some time afterwards and lived separately, though the marriage dissolution was not officially registered. Unlike her husband and son, she did not leave any memories about her famous admirer, and before her death she took a vow from her daughter Olga about destroy of all Vrubel-s letters, which Emiliya Lvovna kept. The daughter performed the will of the mother.



      About love, Wonderful Lady and the "Holy Mother"


Works of artist:
Altar by drawings of Adrian Prakhov