© Vania Zouravliov. Untitled. All rights reserved.
Vania Zouravliov is a very interesting contemporary russian artist. In all his artwork predominates black and white, the line, the drawing are the protagonists. From my point of view his art is quite similar to fin de siècle artist Aubrey Beardsley not only in the importance of the line but the themes. Beardsley was a decadent, with sexual, tragic and deadly elements, some of which we can find in Vania’s paintings. Of course there are more than a century between them, but Vania belongs to a current close to gothic contemporary Art whose source is Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelism and Symbolism. So, the Beardsley influence is obvious. Vania has more influences that we can found in Beardsley, like the fascination for Japan and the Baroque elements. Beardsley was influenced from japanese stamps and also his Tannhäuser is plenty of Baroque. Those elements appears in Vania but modified, sublimated, and always with a tone of decadence.

I have found this image in the facebook page of Vania and it has neither title nor date. To write about an image without this information implies that you have to analyze it without an start point. So, I have found two iconographic patterns which can help to understand the image.

First of all we must describe the elements that appears in the image: there is a central charater that is an old woman dressed in black, rubbing her hands and with an ornamental black hat. She is looking front to the observer and her eyes seem to be blind. Just together to her in the right side there is  maiden, she is half nude, showing her breast and in a contraposto, giving dynamism to composition. She is blonde, pale and with bright eyes, her dress is darker and stamped with flowers and also wears a black hat, ear rings and a pearl necklace. In the left side of the composition there are two elements: above an skull and down deer horns. All the scene is placed in an overlaborate atmosphere mainy decorative.

So, presented the elements of the image, we must try to interpretate them. I have found two tales which could  fit the image: the popular Snow White tale and the Spanish classic from 16th century La Celestina.

In Snow White there are two female protagonists: the beautiful girl Snow White which could be the maiden of our image, and the stepmother, who is also a witch, that could be the old woman. The skull could represent the death that the stepmother wants for Snow Shite. The horns could be also elements of witchcraft. The ornamental hats and necklaces could link the two females with a high social status, close to nobility, as the tale talks about. This could be a first interpretation, but there is an element not taken strictly from the tale: the nudity of Snow White. This element could be linked to a modern and adult version of the tale.

If we go to La Celestina, we find a story with a notorious sexual element. Calixto has fallen in love with Melibea, a maiden. He wants to seduce her but it´s difficult because she doesn´t feel the same for him. To make his desire come true he deceided to be helped by a matchmaker, a horrible ugly old woman. Comparing this story with our image we find many similarities: the blind matchmaker, and the maiden in a sexual context with the partial nude of the girl. Again the skull and the horns connects with witchcraft. The scene could represent the moment in which the matchmaker convinces Melibea for the sexual meeting with Calixto.

These are only two possible meanings for this fantastic work of Vania  Zouravliov. All his art is plenty of meanings and always using this beautiful style that makes his art unique.
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3 thoughts on “Between Snow White and La Celestina

  1. This image, the title of which is ‘Fairy Godmother’, is an interpretation of the Russian folk tale ‘Vasilisa the Fair’. The elements in frame are Vasilisa herself – the young girl, her mother, (who takes the form of an enchanted doll in the story) and behind them both the dwelling place of the Slavic witch, Baba Yaga.

    1. Dear Fletcher-K,
      Thanks a lot for clearing the meaning of this interesting drawing. I don´t know so much about Russian Folk Tales. Maybe has it relation with the tales I mention on my post?

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