Author: Elena V. Stepanian-Rumyantseva
Information about the author:

Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor, Department of Literature, Moscow State Institute of Culture, 7 Bibliotechnaya St., 141406 Khimki, Moscow, Russia,

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For citation:

Stepanian-Rumyantseva, E.V. “The Literary Portrait from Pushkin to Dostoevsky”. Dostoevsky and World Culture. Philological journal, no. 4 (12), 2020, pp. 86-104. (In Russ.)

Received: 06.07.2020
Published: 25.12.2020
Issue: 2020 no. 4 (12)
Pages: 86-104
UDK: 821.161.1.0
BBK: 83.3(2)+85.103
Keywords: Portrait, literary portrait, suggestive portrait, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Schiller, dynamic principle, grace, statics.
Abstract: The article explores the peculiarities of literary portraits and studies the interconnections and contrasts between painted and written portraits. The recognizability of a portrait in pictorial art is attained not only through physical resemblance but also through “artistic deformations” that the author introduces to the appearance of the portrayed. In a literary portrait, identification is achieved both by verbal and plastic detailing and by addressing the reader’s inner experience and imagination. Traditionally, the literary portrait in the Russian literature of the 19th century is based mostly on plastic characteristics, comparisons, and color accents, and because of this, it is often defined as “pictorial”. However, portraits by Pushkin and Dostoevsky stand out as exceptionally original, as if created from a different material. Pushkin avoids detailing, instead, he presents a “suggestive” portrait, i.e., a dynamic outline of the personality. The reader’s imagination is influenced not by details, but rather by the dynamic nature of Pushkin’s characters. Dostoevsky does not inherit Pushkin’s methods, though he also turns to a dynamic principle in describing the heroes of his novels. When they first appear, he presents them as if from different angles of vision, and their features may often be in discord, which makes the reader sense a contradictory impact of their personalities, as well as of their portraits. This kind of portrait is a dynamic message, where the reader follows the hero along unexpected and contrasting paths that the author previously mapped for him. From the beginning to the very end of their works, these two classics of Russian literature present the human personality as a being in a state of life-long development, always changing and always free in its existential choice.


1. Averintsev, S.S. “Pushkin i Gete” [“Pushkin and Goethe”]. Novyi Mir, no. 6, 1999. Available at: (accessed 12 November 2020). (In Russ.)

2. Gabrichevskii, A.G. “Portret kak problema izobrazheniia” [“The Portrait as a Problem of Representation”]. Iskusstvo portreta. Sbornik statei [The Art of Portrait. Collected Articles]. Moscow, Mospoligraf Publ., 1927. Available at: nnaya-akademiya-hudozhestvenni.php (accessed 9 Octobert 2020). (In Russ.)

3. Warburg, A. Velikoe pereselenie obrazov [The Great Migration of Images]. St. Petersburg, Azbuka-klassika Publ., 2008. Available at: (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

4. Da Vinci, L. O rasprostranenii obrazov i o volnakh [About the Сirculation of Images and about Waves]. Available at: (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

5. Danilova, I.E. Poblema zhanrov v evropeiskoi zhivopisi: Chelovek i veshch’. Portret i natiurmort [The Question of Genre in European Art: The Man and the Things. Portrait and Still Life]. Moscow, Russian State University for the Humanities Publ., 1998. 104 p. Available at: http:// (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

6. Dostoevskii, F.M. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: v 30 t. [Complete Works: in 30 vols.] Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1972-1990. (In Russ.)

7. Ioganson, B. “Portret Sergeia Esenina kisti Davida Burliuka iz arkhiva Gordona Makveia” [“The Portrait of Sergey Esenin by David Burliuk from Gordon McVay’s Archive”]. Panorama iskusstv, no. 2, 2017, pp. 253-265. (In Russ.)

8. Lotman, Iu.M. “Portret” [“Portrait”]. Stat’i po semiotike kyl’tury i iskusstva. [Articles on the Semiotic of Culture and Arts]. St. Petersburg, Akademicheskii proekt Publ., 2002, pp. 249-275. Available at: (accessed 10 October 2020). (In Russ.)

9. Mandel’shtam, O.E. Sobranie sochinenii v 4 t. [Complete Works in 4 vols.]. Vol. 3. Moscow, Terra Publ., 1991. 607 p. (In Russ.)

10. Patter, U. Renessans. Ocherki iskusstva i poezii [Renaissance. Essays on Art and Poetry]. Moscow, Problemy Estetiki Publ., 1912. 193 p. Available at: ru/000201_000010_BJVVV1067670?page=1&rotate=0&theme=white (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

11. Pushkin, A.S. Sobranie sochinenii: v 10 t. [Collected Works in 10 vols.]. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaia literatura Publ., 1994-1998. (In Russ.)

12. Razzakov, F.I. Dos’e na zvezd: pravda, vymysly, sensatsii, 1962-1980 [A Dossier on Stars: Truth, Fiction, Sensationalism, 1962-1980]. Moscow, EKSMO-Press Publ., 1998. 746 p. Available at: (accessed: 16 October 2020). (In Russ.)

13. Strelkov, V.I. “Parametry khudozhestennogo tvorchestva: bezumie, razum, spontannost’” [“The Parameters of Artworks: Madness, Reason, Spontaneity”]. Antropologiia iskusstva. Iazyk iskusstva i mera chelovecheskogo v meniaiushchemsia mire [The Anthropology of Art. Language of Art and Human Measure in a Changing World]. Moscow, Indrik Publ, 2017, pp. 202-213. (In Russ.)

14. Stepun, F.A. Vstrechi [Meetings]. Munich, Tovarishchestvo zarubezhnykh pisatelei Publ., 1962. 202 p. Available at: (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

15. Chumakov, Iu.N. “Tat’iana, kniaginia N, Muza (iz prochtenii VIII glavy ‘Evgeniia Onegina’)” [“Tatiana, Princess N., Muse (Reading Evgeny Onegin, Chapter Seven)”]. Pushkin. Tiutchev. Opyt immanentnykh rassmotrenii [Pushkin. Tyutchev. An Attempt to Immanent Considerations]. Moscow, Iazyki slavianskoi kul’tury Publ., 2008. Available at: pushkin/articles/chumakov-pushkin-tyutchev/tatyana-knyaginya-n.htm (accessed 7 November 2020). (In Russ.)

16. Shiller, F. Sobranie sochinenii: v 7 t. [Collected Works in 7 vols.]. Moscow, Goslitizdat Publ., 1955-1957. Available at: (accessed 9 October 2020). (In Russ.)

17. Iurkina, L.A. “Portret” [“Portrait”]. Literaturovedenie. Literaturnoe proizvedenie: osnovnye poniatia i terminy [Literary Studies. The Work of Literature: Basic Concepts and Terms]. Ed. by L.V. Chernets. Moscow, Vyshaia shkola Publ., 1997. 337 p. Available at: https://topuch. ru/e-g-blina-a-b-esin-a-a-ilyushin-o-a-kliig-i-a-knignn-e-r-kotoc/index21.html (accessed 10 October 2020). (In Russ.)