Annushka

I found this lovely portrait on Wikipedia. 18th century portraits almost exclusively show people with European looks. But here a Russian painter has painted a Kalmyk girl in 1767. The Kalmyks are a Western Mongolian group living in south-west Russia. The girl looks just like Juniorette’s buddy whose parents are from Afghanistan and Korea! This picture presses all my dad buttons.

Her name was Annushka and she was a serf and protegée of Countess Varvara Sheremeteva (later Countess Razumovsky). In the picture, the girl is holding a portrait of the Countess. The painter, Ivan Argunov, is a major figure in the history of Russian art — and was a serf of the Countess’s father, Count Pyotr Sheremetev. One of Moscow’s airports is named for this wildly rich family.

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3 thoughts on “Annushka

  1. She reminds me of the African servants in paintings from western Europe. For part of the 18th century it was quite fashionable to have an exotic-looking servant, and the Atlantic slave trade meant that there were a reasonable number of people of African ancestry available in Europe. Some of them got to learn something prestigious like music, but they were still showed off like toys. I wonder if Annushka’s story was any happier …

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  2. SM, I know what happened to two of these boys.
    A local laird was showing me and the other diggers round his shabby castle, pointed out the vast portrait of his ham-faced, periwigged aristo forbear, and mentioned the black lad lurking behind with the decanter of port on a tray or something. He was the founder of a very large local family (some of whom were working on site with us!), as he absconded with a dairymaid from the next parish and seems to have had no obvious trouble settling in with the indigenous paupers (who tended to harbour very radical opinions, up to and including jacobinism, on most things at that time).
    Another large kindred I have met the odd member of, about fifty miles up the coast from there, descends from another 18th-century laird’s black manservant. Not so lucky, as he was turned out of the household when the chief wig-dude went broke (gambling IIRC) and the young man ended up “free” down a coal pit, toiling away alongside the lowest of the low, and taking up with them as a family man eventually (coalminers, and other menials could be legal slaves until 1774 in Scotland. The NMS had an engraved C18th owner’s neckring (for some gaelic rebel who had a tendency to escape I think) and possibly some bits of irons/chains. Not sure if they still do). It stuck in my mind because a good number of my ancestors were colliers, and I’d never heard of such a thing, in school. Mine weren’t actual slaves though, AFAIK.

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