The Painting That is Only the Beginning of a Story

Is this the end of a story, or only the beginning?

A Boyar Wedding Feast, Konstatin Makovsky, 1883. Image courtesy Wikipedia (CC).

A Boyar Wedding Feast, Konstatin Makovsky, 1883. Image courtesy Wikipedia (CC).

A Boyar Wedding Feast by Makovsky is part of the Hillwood Estate collection in Washington, D.C. at the home of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress of the Post cereal fortune. Sometime during the Bolshevik Revolution Marjorie Post visited Russia and rescued artifacts, art, and religious items. A Boyar Wedding Feast and its luxurious depiction of 16th or 17th century Russian nobility would have definitely been in the Bolshevik burn barrel had not Post saved it.

The painting struck me so much when I saw it that my sister-in-law, whose idea it was to visit Hillwood, bought a print of it for my birthday soon after.

The subject matter seems joyously romantic and nationalistic at first glance. But inspect the painting closer and you'll see tension: the bride's shy, sad face; the difference in wealth between the bridal families, the uncertainty of the younger sister (she is at the exact center of the painting), the conversation and varied facial expressions among the guests in the background, the straining and darkened face of the servant - family to family, upper to lower class, man to woman - these are the tensions of Russian society in Makovsky's day as much as they were in the 16th century. In many ways this painting is a prophesy of the coming revolution, whether or not Makovsky intended it at an homage to Mother Russia.

I have a draft of a (very bad) novel based on the characters of this painting as well as a few more story ideas. Someday I will write one of these stories. For real. In the meantime, the print I own reminds me to keep on asking, What if . . . ? Because this painting is only the beginning of the story.

ArtRhonda OrtizComment