Anna Karenina Part 5, Chapter 13 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 5, Chapter 13 Summary

Mihailov sold Vronsky his painting and agrees to paint a portrait of Anna Karenina. After just the fifth sitting, the portrait impresses everyone who sees it. Not only has Mihailov portrayed her beauty, but he has also captured her beautiful nature. Vronsky is perplexed and wonders how this stranger has discovered the “sweetest expression of her soul,” though Vronsky himself only learned that secret after seeing the portrait. Vronsky, after working so long on his own portrait of her, is amazed that Mihailov simply looks, sees, and paints.

Golenishtchev assures Vronsky he will one day be able to paint in such a way, partly because he believes Vronsky has talent and partly because he needs Vronsky’s approval of his own ideas and believes that praise and support should be mutual.

In another man’s house, Mihailov is quite different than he is in his own studio. He behaves with “hostile courtesy,” as if he is afraid of coming too close to people he does not respect. He never accepts invitations to stay for dinner, stays stubbornly silent when Vronsky shows him his painting, displays boredom when Golenishtchev speaks, and studiously avoids engaging in conversation with Anna Karenina. As a result, the trio comes to dislike Mihailov more the longer they are around him; when the sittings are over they are happy to have a magnificent portrait and to be rid of the hostile artist.

Golenishtchev is the first to suggest that Mihailov was jealous of Vronsky’s talent, especially because Vronsky is an educated nobleman and the artist is without culture. Though Vronsky defends Mihailov, silently he agrees with Golenishtchev because, in his view, a man of a lower social class is sure to be envious. Looking at his portrait and Mihailov’s portrait of the same subject should have shown Vronsky the difference between them, but he does not see it.

Vronsky stops work on his painting since he now has a beautiful portrait of Anna Karenina and does not need another one. He continues to work on his painting of medieval life, and he, Golenishtchev, and Anna Karenina all like the piece very much because it is much more like the celebrated paintings they are familiar...

(The entire section is 559 words.)