Date of writing – 1782. The canvas is in the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
The outstanding master of portraiture painted a portrait of the secular beauty, being at the height of his mastery, during the years of his highest glory.
From the canvas to the viewer looks niece of the Polish king Stanislav, maid of honor, then – the state lady Catherine II, a real secular lioness, Ursula Mnishek. Contemporaries noted her sharp mind, education, erudition, ability to skillfully lead a conversation, excellent literary and artistic abilities.
The portrait is made in an oval, which is not typical for Levitsky’s painting in this genre. Amazing skill of the painter is striking: the picture looks like an amazing cameo – to such an extent brush strokes are masterfully hidden here.
Shining satin, starched stiff lace, thickly powdered high wig, bright blush – every detail delights with natural performance, bringing the picture closer to the picture in quality.
In the image of human flesh, the artist achieves an incredible perfection – using special artistic techniques, he achieves a perfectly even, matte shade of the aristocratic skin, a delightfully-smooth transition from light to dark areas.
Ursula Mnishek looks from the portrait chilly politely, a little haughty. The social lady smiles faintly, but her facial expression is more likely a tribute to simple courtesy than genuine friendliness. The bright eyes are cold, the gaze is straight, but completely clear, without the slightest hint of mystery or hidden emotions. Probably, the aristocratic upbringing and long presence at the court taught the woman to skillfully hide her true feelings and moods.
A strange enigma can be considered a peculiar mystery of the portrait: carefully examining the image, the viewer begins to gradually become sympathetic to the secular lady, forgiving her secrecy and strictly meticulous politeness.