Perov arrived in Paris, already being an artist with a fully formed personality. After the accusatory pictures that were sensational in Russia, the “uncritical” depiction of everyday life was simply impossible for him. But “ignorance of the moral life of the people” (as Perov put it in another letter) makes it impossible to answer the most important question for the critical realist: “What is evil?” In Russia this was understandable, in Paris it was not. It is unlikely that Perov had the opportunity to observe there anything similar to the “evil” of Russian reality – say, Catholic priests sipping champagne, or bribe officials performing an unjust trial. Therefore, only sketches were completely finished, which depicted, so to speak, the most accessible evil for the artist in Paris, more precisely, his victims – the urban poor, itinerant musicians, clochards.
The most famous of these sketches was “Savoyard” – a boy in tattered clothes and holey shoes, who fell asleep right on the Parisian pavement. A monkey clung to his shoulder, with which the Savoyard, apparently, gives performances, and at his feet lies a large wide-brimmed hat, into which the audience is throwing coins.
In Savoyar, Perov found a theme that would later become one of the dominant in his work – an unhappy, impoverished childhood. The child is the most defenseless creature in front of the surrounding evil, and it is especially common for stories where children are shown as victims of this evil to touch for the living, to cause pain, grief and pity.
Having exhausted the possibilities of creating a genre painting in Paris, Perov in July 1864, without spending even two years abroad, turned to the Academy Council with a request to return to Russia: “… I find it less useful to devote myself to studying a foreign country for several years, than possible to study and develop the countless richness of plots both in urban and rural life of our fatherland, ”he wrote. It is noteworthy that the concept of the usefulness of art, which in the 1860s became a measure of artistic value, sounds here.
Painting year: 1863-1864.
Painting dimensions: 40.5 x 32.2 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.