Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 12 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 12 Summary

Anna Karenina and Vronsky exchange uncomfortable glances as their companion debates with the artist, and soon they walk around the studio until they stop before one small painting. Their exclamations of delight at the exquisite work capture the artist’s attention, and he wonders what they are so pleased to see.

Mihailov had forgotten about this painting that he had done three years ago and the three months of agonizing it had cost him. Once it was completed, however, he had forgotten it, just as he does all of his finished works. In fact, he does not even like to look at them again; he only has this one out because he is expecting an Englishman who wants to buy it. Even Golenishtchev is sincere in his praise for the work.

The painting is of two boys fishing under a willow tree. The older boy has just dropped his line into the water and is totally absorbed in his line and his fishing. The other boy, a little younger, is simply lying in the grass, leaning on his elbows and staring at the water with his “dreamy blue eyes.” Each person there wonders what that young boy is thinking.

Seeing his visitors’ enthusiasm stirs something in the artist, but Mihailov dislikes wasting feelings for things which are in the past. So, even though he appreciates the praise, he tries to draw his visitors’ attention to a third painting. Vronsky will not be moved, though, and asks if the piece is for sale. This, too, puts a damper on Mihailov’s enthusiasm, for he finds it extremely distasteful to speak of anything concerning money. He scowls when he tells Vronsky the painting is out because it is to be sold.

After his visitors have gone, Mihailov sits down opposite his painting of Pilate and Christ and ponders what had been said, not said, and implied by his Russian guests. Strangely, what had seemed important about what they said...

(The entire section is 501 words.)