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PETR SOKOLOV (1787-1848) Portrait of Pauline Viardot. 1843
signed in Cyrillic ‘Sokolov’ (center right), inscribed ‘Mme Viardot’ (lower left) watercolour, pencil on paper 20 x 15 cm 1843 Provenance: Polina Viardot’s descendants; Private collection Pauline Viardot (1821 - 1910) was a famous Spanish-French opera singer and composer. Because of her talent, she performed in the best concert halls in Europe, including the St. Petersburg Opera House (during 1843-1846). She was also the author of romances and comic operas to libretti by Ivan Turgenev, her close friend and admirer. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev fell passionately in love with the singer in 1843 after hearing her performance in The Barber of Seville. In 1845 he left Russia to follow Pauline and eventually became almost a member of the Viardot family. The writer treated Pauline’s four children as his own and adored her until her death. She, in turn, was a critic of his works, and her position and connections represented the writer in the best light. The true nature of their relationship is still a mystery. Famous for her vocal skills and dramatic abilities, Viardot inspired such composers as Frédéric Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Giacomo Meyerbeer, author of the opera The Prophet, in which she was the first performer of the part of Fidesz. Viardot’s popularity was so great that Georges Sand made her the prototype of the protagonist of the novel ‘Consuelo’.