In the 18th century Russian culture got connected with the contemporary all-European artistic process. As a result the creative heritage, including the Renaissance art, which was common to all European countries in the modern era, became actual for Russian art. This tendency had a serious impact on the development of family portraiture in Russia. This theme has not yet become a subject of a specialized research. So, the purpose of my work is to trace how the family portrait tradition developed in Western Europe was perceived in Russia in typological, figurative, compositional and symbolic contexts.
Among art schools that gave the world the greatest diversity of family paintings the dominant were the Netherlands, and subsequently Flanders and Holland, Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain. In these countries the family representation developed to become one of the main motives of portraiture since Renaissance.
The paper offers analysis of the selection and interpretation of iconographic types of family paintings by the Russian artists of the 18th century. The types included the following: twin and double portraits of spouses and close relatives; self-portraits of artists with their families; portraits of mother and a child or children, representing motherhood as the main female virtue, and group family portraits, supporting the idea of clan glorification developed in Western Europe. Turning to another typological level, we came to a conclusion that in Russian art, as well as in Europe, a family portrait was represented in types of a ceremonial portrait, a chamber portrait, a portrait in landscape and a portrait in interior. Even such a specific portrait type as “a conversation piece”, borrowed from British tradition, found its reflection in Russian art (“Portrait of a Nobleman of St. Petersburg Province with His Family” by an unknown artist, Russia, 1790s, The Moscow State Integrated Art and Historical Architectural and Natural Landscape Museum-Reserve; “Portrait of Countess Bezborodko and Her Daughters Lyubov and Cleopatra” by V. L. Borovikovsky, 1803, The State Russian Museum).
My analysis demonstrates that typlogy of family portrait, as well as many artistic means, compositional devices, attributes, which were widely used in Western painting, was deeply spiritualized by the unique Russian identity when being adopted by Russian art.