'Happy Arcadia', monumental Russian oil painting by Makovsky

By Makovsky, Konstantin Egorovich (Russian, 1839-1915)


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This painting, ‘Happy Arcadia’, was painted by the important Russian 19th Century artist, Konstantin Yegorovich Makovsky.

Makovsky was famous in his own lifetime. He was dubbed ‘the Russian Teipolo’ by his contemporaries for his skill in monumental decorative painting. His paintings were highly sought-after by the social elite in Russia. Makovsky was described by one newspaper as, ‘…the great joy of the Aristocracy’, and that, ‘…a stately home without a painting by Makovsky cannot – at this time – be taken seriously.’ (‘Solntse Rossii’, 1915).

The picture depicts ‘Arcadia’ – a vision of a pastoral idyll where people exist in harmony with nature. The focus of the scene is the three beautiful young shepherdesses (reminiscent of the classical Three Graces), who perform a dance. Their sheer white dresses fly around them as they dance, and flirtatiously reveal their nude bodies underneath. The woman on the left is possibly Makovsky’s wife, Yulia Pavlovna. Their dancing is accompanied by music, performed by a shepherd playing a bagpipe and his young apprentice on a pipe. Groups of putti watch on in the background. In the right foreground, a cupid rides a leopard, saddled with pink fabric and bridled, symbolising passion restrained.

‘Happy Arcadia’ is painted in a light, airy and decorative style, which was typical of Makovsky’s oeuvre.

This painting is one of sixteenth canvases, commissioned by Sergei Pavlovich von Derviz to decorate the music room in his mansion on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg. These paintings depicted allegories of sculpture, painting, poetry and music, accompanied by putti, animals and celestial beings. ‘Happy Arcadia’ was positioned at the centre of the arrangement, being one of the largest and most impressive compositions.

The sixteen Derviz mansion paintings were created in Paris between 1886-89. They were first exhibited in 1887 in the gallery of J Petit in Paris. The following year, they were showed at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St. Petersburg. At this point, Makovsky had completed eleven of the sixteen paintings. A selection of the works were published in a St. Petersburg journal in 1889, called ‘Niva’.

Between 1903-1905, Derviz sold his mansion and all its contents. It was bought by one Baron Anton Georgievich Alftan, who, in 1907, organised an exhibition of the Makovsky paintings. The exhibition was well-received in the press, with one newspaper (Novoe Vremya) stating that, of exhibitions, ‘there have been […] none more beautiful’.

Sometime after Makovsky’s death in 1915, the Derviz mansion paintings were listed for inclusion in an Academy exhibition in St. Petersburg. After this, Makovsky’s masterpieces were largely forgotten, until 1980 when individual panels began to appear on the art market in Europe and America.‘Happy Arcadia’ was recently re-discovered, hanging in the drawing room of Gotarsvik manor, Obrebro, Sweden, which was owned by Gottfried Berglund.

Makovsky did not often sign his paintings, but this piece is signed. It appears the signature was added at a later date, possibly by the artist.


Baron Sergei Pavlovich von Derviz, St. Petersburg
Baron Anton Alfan, St. Petersburg
Given by the Soviet Army in payment for boots, circa 1930s to Gottfried Berglund, owner of Götarsvik manor, Örebro, Sweden, and installed in the drawing room there


Niva , St. Petersburg, 1889, no.35, p. 869
G.Romanov & A.Muratov, Zhivopis Russkogo Salona (1850-1917), St Petersburg, 2004, p.392.


Artist / Maker
By Makovsky, Konstantin Egorovich (Russian, 1839-1915)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Late 19th Century
Academic, Animal / Animalier, Figurative Art, Landscape, Mythological, Neoclassical
Oil on Canvas


220 cm / 86.6 inches
364 cm / 143.3 inches


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