“Unequal marriage” - a picture of the Russian artist Vasily Pukirev . The work was written in 1862, immediately after graduating from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture . The painting “Unequal Marriage” (located in the State Tretyakov Gallery ) was delivered to the academic exhibition of 1863, with its general idea, strong expression, unusual size for a domestic plot and masterful performance, immediately pushing the artist to one of the most prominent places among Russian painters. For her, the Academy awarded him the title of professor .
|Unequal marriage . 1862|
|Oil on canvas . 173 × 136.5 cm|
|State Tretyakov Gallery , Moscow|
|( inv. )|
- 1 Background
- 2 Work on the picture
- 3 Description
- 4 Prototypes of the picture
- 4.1 Version of Nikolai Varentsov
- 4.2 Version of Gribkov and Mudrogel
- 5 Consequences
- 6 Interesting Facts
- 7 Comments
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
In the middle of the 19th century, the issue of the disempowerment of a woman, a girl of homelessness who was married out against her will, became painful for Russia. A significant number of marriages at that time were built on the basis of profit and material interest. In 1854, the play by A. N. Ostrovsky “ Poverty is not a vice ” was staged on the stage of the Maly Theater, and in February 1861, the Decree of the Holy Synod came out, condemning marriage with a big difference in age. [one]
There is a version that the idea of writing a picture on this topic was suggested to Vasily Pukirev by his friend, an artist who studied the mores of the merchant world and concluded that cynicism rules their world, and the desire for profit makes merchants cynical. [one]
Work on the picture
Pukirev began work in 1862. He quickly wrote a sketch of a small size (34x26) and began to paint a large canvas. [one]
The painting depicts the sacrament (ceremony) of the wedding in the Orthodox Church. Amid the twilight of the church, the light falling from the window brightly illuminates only the groom, the bride and the priest. The groom is depicted as an old man in a good suit, with a pungent, condescendingly irritable  expression on his wrinkled face. He has expressionless dull eyes, fastidiously protruding lips, on the neck of the order of the cross of Vladimir II degree and to the left of his chest a star corresponding to this order. A tightened and tight collar gives his face a motionless and frozen look, and only his eyes are slightly slanted towards the bride.
In contrast to the groom, the image of the bride is written. She is very young, still a child, as evidenced by the oval of her face, silky blond hair, small stature. On her head is a veil testifying to her innocence. Her face is pale, her eyes are tearful and her gaze is lowered, which gives her image a special touch. She seems especially clean in her wedding attire. In her left hand she has a limp candle downward, she extends her right hand to the priest, substituting the index finger for the engagement ring.
The figure of the priest in the robe is depicted with a hunched look with a sullen look, in his left hand is a church book, and his right holds a golden wedding ring , which he is going to put on his bride’s finger.
Among the guests, the figure of the best man depicted at the edge of the picture behind the bride stands out. His expression expresses dissatisfaction, hands folded on his chest. The images of the best man and the bride are connected in the picture by subtle, indirect connections. Firstly, the artist demonstrated this by placing them in close proximity to each other in the cramped space of the church, and secondly, only they are young in the picture and united by one common experience. On the chest of the best man, as expected, a rose pinned at the heart, but in this case it is a sign that dooms the hero to suffering. 
The remaining characters play a secondary role. The author divides them into two groups - the groom's group and the bride's group. The first, among which an important military man and a man standing next to him, is looking at the bride with frank and immodest curiosity. The elderly woman on the left looks faithfully at the old groom, apparently a matchmaker . In the second group, in addition to the best man, one can note the figure of a man standing next to him, in the gaze of which a live participation is clearly read.
Version by Nikolai Varentsov
According to the first version, the plot of the picture is connected with a love drama that happened to a friend of the artist by a young merchant Sergei Mikhailovich Varentsov.  According to this version, Sergey Varentsov [comm. 1] was in love with 24-year-old  Sofya Nikolaevna Rybnikova [comm. 2] , but the bride’s parents preferred him to the more affluent and well-known in the commercial and industrial world, the old (37-year-old  , 13 years older than the bride) Andrei Alexandrovich Karzinkin . Moreover, according to the testimony of N.P. Syreishchikov, the granddaughter of Varentsov, due to the circumstances Sergey Varentsov was forced to attend the wedding, which took place in 1860 in the church of the Three Saints in Kulishki , as a best man.  N. A. Varentsov in his memoirs explained this need by the fact that Karzinkina’s sister was married to Sergei Varentsov’s elder brother, Nikolai. [four]
According to the version, soon Sergey Varentsov protested against the image of himself in the picture,  since, in turn, he was going to marry Olga Urusova. The artist was forced to depict himself in the picture. 
They told about Sergei Mikhailovich that he was in love with the young lady, the daughter of the merchant Rybnikov, and wanted to marry her, but her parents preferred to marry her Andrei Alexandrovich Karzinkin, although not so handsome, but very rich and good man.
This failure of Sergei Mikhailovich was very depressing, and he shared grief with his friend artist Pukirev, who used this story to plot his picture under the title “Unequal Marriage”, portraying the groom as an old man general, and the best man standing with his hands folded on his chest, Sergei Mikhailovich . The painting was a great success at the exhibition, was acquired by P. M. Tretyakov and is still in the Tretyakov Gallery. Because of this picture, a major quarrel occurred between Sergei Mikhailovich and Pukirev when he saw his image on it. Pukirev was forced to attach a small beard to a chafer, leaving all facial features unchanged, since Sergei Mikhailovich did not wear a beard.- N.A. Varentsov . “Heard. Seen. Change of mind. Survived
Confirmation of the fact that the artist depicted himself in the picture is his similarity  with the image of the artist in the painting “In the Artist's Studio” (1865), where according to the testimony of N. A. Mudrogel , the author depicted himself.  The artist’s friend S. I. Gribkov also confirmed that “with arms crossed in the picture, this is V. V. Pukirev himself, as if alive.” 
|Vasily Pukirev in the guise of a best man in the painting “Unequal Marriage”||Pukirev's painting "In the Artist's Studio".|
In the background, with his hand on the easel, the author is depicted
|Andrey Alexandrovich Karzinkin .|
Photograph of the late 19th century.
|Portrait of S. M. Varentsov by Pukirev.|
Gribkov and Mudrogel Version
According to another version, voiced by a friend of the artist Sergey Gribkov and N. A. Mudrogel  , the picture depicts the love drama of the artist himself. Moreover, Gribkov told the details of this story:
A friend and friend of V.V. Pukirev from a young age, he (S. I. Gribkov) knew the history of the painting “Unequal Marriage” and the whole tragedy of the author’s life: this old important official is a living person. The bride next to him is a portrait of the bride of V.V. Pukirev, and standing with arms crossed is V.V. Pukirev himself, as if alive.- V. A. Gilyarovsky . "Moscow and Muscovites"
According to this version, the prototype in the image of the bride in the picture shows the failed bride of Vasily Pukirev himself  - Praskovya Matveeva Varentsova [comm. 3] , the grandniece of Princess Olga Mironovna Shchepina-Rostovskaya (nee Varentsova-Tarkhovskaya), wife of Prince A. I. Shchepin-Rostovsky.  Confirmation of this version was received in 2002, when the State Tretyakov Gallery acquired a pencil drawing of 1907 by V. D. Sukhov, which says: “ Praskovya Matveevna Varentsova, with whom artist V. V. Pukirev wrote his 44 years ago famous painting “Unequal marriage”. Ms. Varentsova lives in Moscow, in the Mazurinsky almshouse . ” [one]
In the image of the groom, according to the assumption of L. Katz, the artist depicted the Tver leader of the nobility Alexei Markovich Poltoratsky, with a large posthumous portrait of whom she found similarities.  In the sketch for the painting “The Head of the Old Man”, the artist indicated that he had written with Prince Tsitsianov,  L. Polozova suggested that this was Prince Pavel Ivanovich Tsitsianov.  and N. P. Syreishchikov claims that the head was written from the cook Vladimir Ivanovich, who served in the Varentsovs' house in those years.  In addition, L. Polozova believes that the image may have been written in a collective way: the figure and clothes are from Poltoratsky, the head with a special expression on the face is from Tsitsianov, the whisk of gray hair is from the cook Vladimir Ivanovich. 
The painting depicts two more personalities familiar to the artist. Next to the best man, Pukirev’s friend, the artist Peter Mikhailovich Shmelkov , is depicted, according to one version and prompting the author of the idea of the picture.  In addition, the side of the picture depicts the head of the frame-holder Grebensky, who promised to make the artist a frame for the painting "which has not yet happened." 
|The head of an old man.|
Study for the painting “Unequal Marriage”.
On the back of the canvas with a pen there is an inscription: Pukirev. Etude to the painting “Unequal Marriage” (Tretyak. Gal.). Below: It is written by Prince Tsitsіanov. "
|Portrait of A. M. Poltoratsky work Pukirev. 1861 year||Peter Mikhailovich Shmelkov (1819-1890)||A pencil drawing of 1907 by V. D. Sukhov, on which is written: “Praskovya Matveevna Varentsova, with whom artist V. V. Pukirev painted his famous painting“ Unequal Marriage ”44 years ago. Madame Varentsova lives in Moscow, in the Mazurinsky almshouse "|
The painting was exhibited in September 1863 in St. Petersburg at the next academic exhibition, but even before the exhibition it was bought by collector Alexander Borisovsky, a friend of Pukirev, from whom, in turn, in 1871, Pavel Tretyakov bought it for 1,500 rubles. Now the picture is exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery.
At the exhibition, the painting made a huge impression on his contemporaries. V. V. Stasov believed that Pukirev’s painting is one of the most capitalist, but at the same time the most tragic paintings of the Russian school, I. E. Repin noted that Pukirev “did not spoil a lot of blood with one old general,” but historian N. I Kostomarov admitted to his friends that, having seen the picture, he abandoned the intention to marry a young girl.  At the same time, the Iskra progressive magazine, in an article of 1863, “Shattering Art,” criticized the picture for insufficiently deep social exposure, for a touch of sentimentalism and melodramaticity, reducing its artistic value.
In 1875, Vasily Pukirev painted a repetition of the painting “Unequal Marriage,” which is now on display at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus .  Pukirev returned to the topic of marriage in his other works, such as “Taking the dowry by painting” and “Interrupted Wedding”.
|Pukirev's painting "The Bigamman, or The Interrupted Wedding". 1877 year||Pukirev's painting, "A dowry reception in a merchant family by painting." 1873 year|
- In the design of the cover of the album “ Strawberry with ice ” by the group “Crematorium”, the painting “unequal marriage” by Vasily Pukirev was used. The creators of the design complemented the picture with a figure in a white coat.
- Sergei Mikhailovich Varentsov (1833–1874), a Moscow merchant of the second guild (who sold moscovite goods ), was the guild headman of the Merchant Council in 1867–1869, the trustee of the philistine school. He married Olga Nikitichna Urusova, who also came from a merchant family.
- Sofya Nikolaevna Rybnikova (1836-1911) - the daughter of the Bogorodsky merchant, the owner of a cloth factory in Chudinki near Kupavna, Nikolai Abramovich Rybnikov. Married to A.A. Karzinkin, she gave birth to three children: daughter Elena - she graduated from the School of Painting and Sculpture, became an artist and married the writer Teleshov, the eldest son Alexander - was a member of the Moscow Numismatic Society, the author of a number of works on Russian medieval medals, was friends with P. M. Tretyakov. Sofya Nikolaevna donated a lot to charity, including to the Bakhrushinsky hospital, namely to the building of the corps named after the late daughter Sophia for women with tuberculosis and a tuberculosis sanatorium, she was the trustee of the 1st Tagansky female elementary school.
- According to some sources (Anisova N.P., Anisov L.M. “Unequal marriage” // Russian House magazine. - 2012. - No. 6.) this is her maiden name and she was the surname of Sergey Varentsov, according to others ( Polozova L. Unequal marriage Following the fate of the protagonists of the famous painting // Rodina . - 2001. - No. 10.) - her maiden name is not known, and later she was married to a friend of the artist Sergei Varentsov
- Anisova N. P., Anisov L. M. “Unequal marriage” // Journal “ Russian House ”. - 2012. - No. 6.
- Polozova L. Unequal marriage. Following the Fates of the Main Characters of the Famous Painting // Homeland . - 2001. - No. 10.
- Department of Manuscripts of the State Tretyakov Gallery. 4/254, 4/255; RGALI . F. 2819. Op. 1. D. 98. F. 2322. Op. 1. D. 241.
- Our legacy . 1997.S. 82-83. Note Number 18
- Department of manuscripts. Tretyakov Gallery 4/254; 4/255
- Mudrogel N.A. Fifty-eight years in the Tretyakov Gallery. L. 1966.S. 149.
- "The environment of artists" // Gilyarovsky V. A. " Moscow and Muscovites ." M. 1983.P. 119
- Shestakova N. Victims of unequal marriage. // My Moscow . - 1991. - No. 3. - S. 26
- Katz L. On the history of V. Pukirev's painting “Unequal Marriage” // Artist . - 1878. - No. 12. - S. 52.
- Head of an old man
- Department of Manuscripts of the State Tretyakov Gallery
- V. Zimenko . Unequal marriage. M. - L. 1947.S. 12.
- On the 165th anniversary of Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev (1832-1890) (inaccessible link) . Date of treatment December 23, 2011. Archived February 22, 2010.