NABOKV-L post 0008999, Mon, 8 Dec 2003 12:45:24 -0800

Fw: Ada's portrait?

----- Original Message -----
From: D. Barton Johnson
Sent: Monday, December 08, 2003 11:20 AM
Subject: Fw: Ada's portrait?

EDNOTE. Alexey Sklyarenko has recently completed a new Russian translation of Nabokov's ADA.

----- Original Message -----
From: alex
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2003 5:39 PM
Subject: Ada's portrait

Dear friends,

In one of my recent posts, I promised to introduce you to Ada visually, in other words, to show you how Nabokov's heroine would look in her young Ardis years. I was thinking of the portrait of Adelaida Simonovich by Valentin Serov (1865-1911) that I happened to see in the Russian Museum here about a month ago. Thanks to Carolyn Kunin, who has helped me to find it on the Internet, I can send now its detail as an attachment. (For those who should fail to open it, here is the Web link:
I don't affirm that the girl on the picture is Ada Veen (after all, we don't even know if Ada's portrait was made by an artist, only her photographs are mentioned in the novel). I admit, there is some difference between the two Adas. For example, this Ada on the picture seems to be not immune to sun-tan as the pale Ada of the book is. But I hope you will agree with me that a certain resemblance cannot be denied. Perhaps, it is not so much the physical resemblance between the girls, but rather the similar way the two artists, the painter and the writer, view their model/heroine that makes me think that the girl on the portrait is the closest image to our Ada that can be found in paintings. Look at the sun-suffused green background, at the open book before the girl. In his novels (and especially in Ada), Nabokov used to give life to images in paintings and even in advertisements. And somehow, it seems to me that this girl on the picture conceals from us her red knuckles and badly bitten fingernails... Anyway, I wouldn't object if that portrait be chosen for the cover of my translation that I hope will appear someday.

NB! For the (invented) portrait of Ada Bredow by Serov (Five-Petaled Lilac), see Look at the Harlequins!, Part Four, Chapter 3. The narrator, Vadim Vadimovich, suspects that this enchanting girl was "the model of my partner in a recurrent dream of mine..." By his partner, he obviously means Vladimir Vlamirovich, rather than Serov.

See also others portraits of girls by Serov: The Girl with Peaches and The Portrait of Maria Simonovich (Adelaida's first cousin, I believe). Both painted in 1888, if I'm not mistaken. I also remember the lush lilac in an open window on one of Serov pictures (no girls there).