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The first work from a series of portraits of the Morozovs — the rich men known in Russia — was Serov’s canvas depicting an elderly Maria Fedorovna. The portrait was executed in 1897. What is interesting about the image of the richest Russian woman?
M. Morozov is placed in the focus of the portrait on a neutral inhomogeneous gray background. The figure of a woman is seated in an armchair. Noticeable gilding on its back and soft velvet of dark blue upholstery. The lady is dressed in a black dress, its contours are unclear. The dark mass of fabric seems to take hold of the figure, ominously stretching from somewhere below. Black color gives the appearance a certain monumentality, seriousness, significance.
The frills of clothing at the gates make a paradoxical impression - they are similar to funny ruffles; they look comical and ridiculous on a mature woman. Gray hair is neatly tucked away by a scarf tied with a bow, which also looks slightly inappropriate and funny. The heroine's hands rest on her knees, holding the glasses removed.
The face is the central link in the image. In it, we notice some imbalance. The right eye is slightly closed, and the left one is staring and scornfully looking forward at the viewer. In the face of Morozova, decisiveness and willingness to go to the goal against all odds are noticeable.
One feels in the portrait of the millionaire the hostile attitude of the artist towards her. As if he was convinced of dishonest ways to achieve her great wealth. There is no light and spiritual content in her frightening, but somewhat miserable figure.
“Strong smart old woman” - so boldly called Maria Fedorovna the author of the portrait. This "mother" of wealthy manufacturers and merchants is clearly domineering not only in relation to workers, but also with her own sons and husband - Timofei Savvich.
A carelessly executed background is clearly different from a detailed study of facial expressions and face details. Serov was able to describe a distinct character in a limited color palette.