Two 18th-century Russian Paintings Find Their Way Back Home

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi of Russia has described the return home of two 18th-century Russian paintings as "a symbolic event of the outgoing year." This December, the Russian government has made decision to allocate 260,000 dollars for buying back "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" by Dmitri Levitsky (1731-1822) and "Portrait of Darya Yakovleva " by Vasily Borovikovsky (1757-1825). "No doubt it's one of the most important acquisitions made by Russia's public museums in recent years," the minister emphasized. The two masterpieces, until recently believed to never return home, will now enrich the holdings of this country's two major collections of Russian art-the Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg, and the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow. Levitsky's "Portrait of an Unknown Woman," to be displayed at the Russian Museum, was taken by private owners out of Russia in the 1920's, and for a long time it was part of the famous Popov collection, based in Paris. This is an important acquisition for the Russian Museum, holding as many as 32 works by Levitsky. To the Tretyakov Gallery, buying Borovikovsky's "Portrait of Darya Yakovleva" is a significant event, too, all the more so since the gallery made unsuccessful attempts to buy it before the Bolshevik revolution and also in the Soviet era. The high-profile French collector Maurice Baruche has now offered this painting to the gallery. Negotiations with the owners of the portraits have been held for a total of 15 years. Importantly enough, the Russian government has at once agreed to appropriate the funds necessary to buy the pictures back. After undergoing minor restoration, the paintings will be put on view.