Description of the painting by Dmitry Levitsky “Portrait of Denis Didro” (1773)

Description of the painting by Dmitry Levitsky “Portrait of Denis Didro” (1773)

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The portrait of the great French philosopher belongs to the earliest experiences of the artist in this area. Diderot is considered an outstanding theoretician of art, well versed in it. The thinker was skeptical of his own portraits, believing that his face mystifies portrait painters due to its variability. However, the picture of Levitsky made a favorable impression on him; he took it with him to his homeland.

Levitsky sensitively grasped the variability of this extraordinary appearance. He painted the face of an intellectual close-up, without embellishing weaknesses and imperfections. Swelling under the eyes, double chin, bald patches are noticeable. Nothing distracts the attention of the audience, the philosopher sits in a calm pose against a dark background and looks at the portrait as if it were everyday.

Levitsky portrayed him simply, without ceremony, in a home satin dressing gown, in an unbuttoned white shirt, and without a wig indispensable in those years. Behind the completely simple appearance of Diderot is a deep mind and a serious character. A close-up forehead stands out with a high forehead, intellect glowing eyes, an impressive nose, an outstanding chin, and his entire moving face. It is evident that Diderot indulges in intense thought, his detached gaze fixed on space and concentrated on some important thought.

Despite the fact that the chamber portrait was the initial experience of the artist, the color of the canvas is striking in its sophistication. Warm ocher colors of clothes soften the severity of Diderot, the texture of the material is carefully written out: the satin is poured quite naturally. All details, each fold of a dressing gown and a white shirt are underlined with skill worthy of talent. Deep serious dark brown eyes stand out on the face with liveliness and brilliance, looking kindly at the world. Levitsky managed to capture and convey the main thing in the character and appearance of the great thinker. The portrait reproduces the reverence of the painter to the personality of the great French enlightener.

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