Orest Kiprensky was one of Russia's finest early nineteenth-century painters. An adherent of Romanticism, he was best known for his portraits. Romantic painters rejected the grand, highly stylized approach to portraiture that dominated the eighteenth century, and Kiprensky was part of a movement that strove first and foremost to look into the human soul. His subjects included prominent members of the aristocracy, military officers, poets, and ordinary people. They were of interest as human beings first and foremost, each with his or her own mystery.
By 1813, when Kiprensky was in his thirties, he had already attained a degree of fame and had no shortage of clients. This, however, did not prevent him from painting a captivating portrait of a Kalmyk girl (above), a servant in the home of Alexei Olenin, president of the Academy of Arts. In her simplicity and naivety, the girl, whose name was Bayausta, fascinates the viewer as much as any high society beauty. Perhaps it was in search of this very simplicity that Kiprensky left for Italy a few years later, where he lived out the remainder of his life.
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