Portrait of Fyodor Dostoevsky, by Konstantin Shapiro, 1880.
Photographic portrait of Dostoevsky, inscribed 1880. Cabinet photograph (130mm x 97mm) mounted on card (160mm x 104mm) printed recto and verso, by Konstantin Shapiro, showing Dostoevsky half length. Inscribed by Dostoevsky to Jacob Faddeevich Sakhar, 16th December 1880. An extremely rare photographic portrait of Dostoevsky, inscribed by the author.
The photographer Konstantin Shapiro was a close friend of Dostoevsky, and also photographed Tolstoi and many other prominent Russians of the day. According to the 30-volume Academy of Sciences edition of Dostoevsky’s works, which is the current authoritative scholarly edition, there were, as of 1990, 16 known extant inscribed photographs of Dostoevsky, of which only 4 were not in institutional hands, the present example being one of the four noted. (For those who are interested, this edition further indicates that, as of 1990, there were only 47 known authentic Dostoevsky inscriptions in total – a remarkably small number for a prolific and significant author of the day.) The present example is the final example in terms of date, inscribed in the last few weeks of Dostoevsky’s life – he would die in late January 1881. The recipient, Yakov Faddeevich Sakhar, was a 22-year old student at the University of St Petersburg. A lover of literature and the arts from an early age, Sakhar began to collect signed photographs of Russian cultural figures. His first, apparently, was from Turgenev, who gave him an inscribed photo on 15th March 1879. By the end of his life (he died in St. Petersburg in 1911), Sakhar's collection had acquired national significance. Years later, Sakhar's daughter (then living in Paris) gave the collection to the Russian Central State Archive for Literature and Art; but two photographs, those of Turgenev and Dostoevsky, had previously been dispersed, given by her to a collector in Paris. The Dostoevsky photograph later appeared at auction at Stargardt on the 23-24th May, 1967, where it was, properly, described as an "exceptional rarity." Light spotting, tiny closed hole near the top edge; corners of mount rubbed, light spotting and soiling to verso, but an excellent image in quite appealing condition. I suppose that this lily requires no gilding. Housed in an elegant full-morocco chemise.