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Portrait of Alvine Käppa

Konrad Mägi Portrait of Alvine Käppa 1919 oil, canvas 102 × 76 cm

Information on the model is scant, yet according to some sources, Mägi knew the Käppa family since his childhood, since he was from Uderna like them. For instance, August Käppa worked as a teacher at the Uderna school. It is very much possible that this is Alviine Rosalie Käppa, who was 21 years old at the time when this painting was completed and who similarly came from the Käppa family. Yet in the painting, the girl who was evidently from a farm family becomes a noble lady: as is so characteristic of him, Mägi heaps fancy clothing and jewellery onto the model. This is not so much for social reasons, since Mägi evidently was simply looking for a stronger focal point for his paintbrush. Since conveying human psychology did not particularly captivate him, he tried to find and create elements where he could deal with colours. We also see a fancy drapery hanging behind the model, a multi-coloured dress on the model, and a transparent bluish scarf hanging down to her knees. The model’s face, on the other hand, is frozen. Her large eyes are the only element that Mägi pays particular attention to, but even they are more like objects that bear colour than screens that speak of a person’s inner world. This work, which is meant to be a full-dress portrait, is even in a somewhat curious contradiction to the model’s modest origins, but also to Mägi’s time period, when portraits done in such a manner had long since started being replaced by considerably more modern and realistic approaches. Perhaps a distant gesture can be made out here, going back to Konrad Mägi’s first experiences of art, when he saw paintings on the walls of Uderna Manor that probably included some portraits of nobles.