Another version of the painting was previously known, but now have another piece of the puzzle in the history of art been added and it has been established that Makovsky painted this monumental work in two versions.
Between 1886 and 1889 Makovsky worked on a commission at his studio in Paris to paint 16 canvases by Baron Sergei Pavlovich von Derviz, for the music room of his house on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg. The canvases depicted allegories of painting, sculpture, music and poetry, and various putti, sprites and water spirits, and were centred by the largest of them, Happy Arcadia. Some of them, including Happy Arcadia, were published in the magazine Niva in 1889. The painting was also published in postcard form, both in its entirety and individual fragments, under the name The Dance.
In 1907 the paintings were bought by Baron Anton Alfan and shown at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St. Petersburg. In a review of the exhibition published in Novoe Vremia of the 20th November 1907, the author wrote: “It’s has been a long time since we had such a beautiful exhibition as Makovsky’s, which opened on Sunday; there have been bigger and more interesting exhibitions, but none more beautiful.”
The emergence of this huge canvas from a private manor house in Örebro, where it has been installed on the drawing room wall since before the Second World War, is a major and fascinating rediscovery. Another version, of identical size, appeared from a Finnish manor house and was eventually sold at Sotheby’s New York (Russian Art, Vol II, April 17 2007, lot 323, sold $3.4m). At the time it was assumed to be the Van Derviz Happy Arcadia, but the appearance of the Götarsvik canvas means that we can no longer be certain which of the two was originally installed in the mansion on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg. The reproduction in Niva is in the form of a print made after the painting, and so is not conclusive.
We are grateful to Dr. Elena Nesterova, author of the 2003 monograph on the artist, and of a further volume to be published later this year, for coming to examine the painting and for confirming its authenticity.
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