The Girl from Khiva - Russian impressionism museum
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The Girl from Khiva, 1931

Pavel Benkov

Oil on canvas

The State Tretyakov Gallery

During a trip to Bukhara, Benkov heard a lot from archaeologists about Khiva, an ancient city where, as story-tellers said, original elements of folk life and magnificent architectural monuments were well preserved. In the summer of 1930, he finally decided to go there.

It was in Khiva that Benkov first painted Uzbek women without the burqa and discovered a new topic for himself — the image of the liberated woman of the East. Here he would also find one of his favourite subjects — spinstresses at work. Benkov watched the Khiva women spinning at home on their traditional spinning wheels called charh, which demanded deft, skillful hand movements and concentration on the spinning.

Pavel Petrovich said that when he saw spinners, embroiderers and weavers in Khiva, and looked at their bright, yet tastefully matched clothes, and the products coming out of their hands, he remembered the works of Velázquez — especially Las Hilanderas (“The Spinners”) — that he had seen in Spain. The memory of the art of the old masters helped him to achieve a special strength and persuasiveness in his pictorial language in canvases devoted to the work of Khiva women.