Nabokov Photographs: Gallery

Introduction | Gallery | Acknowledgements | Bibliography

In the picture gallery below most of the photos show Nabokov, some others represent members of his family.

The pictures are grouped in several ways.

The first series show Nabokov at various stages of his life, each picture marking another decade.

The second group shows members of his family most dear to him: parents, siblings, wife and son. Vasily Rukavishnikov (“Uncle Ruka”) and Cécile Miauton (“Mademoiselle O”), his French governess, to whom he devoted separate chapters in his autobiography, are also presented.

The third series give Nabokov engaged in his many interests: playing tennis, working as a farmhand, writing novels, keeping goal, hunting butterflies, as a lepidopterist and as a lover of mountains.

The fourth group is a miscellaneous one: photographical portraits, caricatures, drawn portraits and photos of sculptures.

Most of the photos shown below belonged to the Nabokov family. Four of these, dated 1908, were taken by Karl Bulla, who visited Vyra in the month of August of that year. Bulla (1855-1930) was the most famous portrait photographer of pre-Revolutionary Russia, and became the official photographer of the Imperial Court. In July 1908 he visited Yasnaya Polyana, Leo Tolstoy’s estate, in anticipation of the celebrations for the writer’s 80th birthday. He took about a hundred photos of Tolstoy, among these the picture that Pnin sees on his 55th birthday and that haunted his dreams (Pnin Chapter 3).

Six of the photos shown are made by world-famous photographers: Gertrude Fehr, Horst Tappe, Yousuf Karsh, and Philippe Halsman.

Gertrude Fehr lived in Vevey from 1945 onwards, where she founded the Vevey School of Photography. This school was attended by Horst Tappe. He lived in Montreux and portrayed Nabokov many times between 1962 and 1973. His pictures were exhibited in Montreux as part of the celebrations for Nabokov’s centenary in 1999.

Yousuf Karsh, whose portrait of Churchill became legendary, photographed Nabokov in 1972. Philippe Halsman, probably the most famous photographer who portrayed Nabokov, visited Montreux twice, in 1966 and 1968.

The art of making fine headshots depends on the artist’s ability to capture the real person behind the mask the subject may wish to sport: that of a luminary, artist, sage or some other personification. The quality of the splendid portraits of Nabokov may be attributed to some extent to the sitter, as he made no attempts to present a façade. As Philippe Halsman said: “He doesn’t take a bad photograph because he doesn’t give a damn” (VNAY 514).

 

For an illustrated guide to places in Nabokov's life, see Nabokov's Whereabouts on Dieter E. Zimmer's website.

 

Note from the General Editor: TheNabokovian.org is designed as a wiki-style site in order to optimize members' contributions. Registered members are therefore enthusiastically encouraged to contribute to the site as frequently as they can. However, there are special restrictions that apply to the site's Photographs page. Because many photographs and images are under copyright protection, we invite photographs to be posted only when the name of the copyright owner is mentioned below the photo, and with the explicit statement in the caption that permission to reproduce the image has been granted. The document granting permission should be sent to the site's General Editor at dana.dragunoiu@carleton.ca.

 

Vladimir Nabokov at various stages of his life

VN in 1901, two years old, on the veranda of the Vyra mansion. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in 1901, two years old, on the veranda of the Vyra mansion. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in the autumn of 1910, ready to go roller-skating in Berlin. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in the autumn of 1910, ready to go roller-skating in Berlin. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in 1922 at Cambridge, where he studied French and Russian at Trinity from October 1919 until his graduation in June, 1922. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in 1922 at Cambridge, where he studied French and Russian at Trinity from October 1919 until his graduation in June, 1922. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN at age 30. After the publication of The Defence in 1929 he is now recognized as the young star of Russian émigré literature. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN at age 30. After the publication of The Defence in 1929 he is now recognized as the young star of Russian émigré literature. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN in Paris, 1939. This photograph was Véra Nabokov’s favorite one of her husband. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in Paris, 1939. This photograph was Véra Nabokov’s favorite one of her husband. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN and VéN outside 802 East Seneca Street, Ithaca, where they lived from September 1948 until June 1950 and where much of Lolita was written. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN and VéN outside 802 East Seneca Street, Ithaca, where they lived from September 1948 until June 1950 and where much of Lolita was written. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN and VéN on the liner Queen Elizabeth, November 1960, returning from the USA where he wrote Lolita: A Screenplay, for Stanley Kubrick’s movie. In the same month VN began composing Pale Fire. The book VN holds is The Chess Mind. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN and VéN on the liner Queen Elizabeth, November 1960, returning from the USA where he wrote Lolita: A Screenplay, for Stanley Kubrick’s movie. In the same month VN began composing Pale Fire. The book VN holds is The Chess Mind. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN in 1970. Photograph by Getrude Fehr. This photo was selected for the front cover of Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 co-edited by VN’s son Dmitri.
VN in 1970. Photograph by Getrude Fehr. This photo was selected for the front cover of Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 co-edited by VN’s son Dmitri.

VN with close members of his family

VN with his father, 1906, St. Petersburg. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN with his father, 1906, St. Petersburg. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN, his mother and her brother, VN’s Uncle Ruka, Vyra, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN, his mother and her brother, VN’s Uncle Ruka, Vyra, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN and his Uncle Ruka, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN and his Uncle Ruka, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN, his brother Sergey and Mlle Miauton, their French governess, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN, his brother Sergey and Mlle Miauton, their French governess, 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

From left to right: VN’s mother, Elena, Olga, VN’s paternal grandmother, VN’s father, VN, Praskovia Nikolaevna Tarnovski, aunt of VN’s mother, and Sergey. The dachshund is Trainy. Vyra 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
From left to right: VN’s mother, Elena, Olga, VN’s paternal grandmother, VN’s father, VN, Praskovia Nikolaevna Tarnovski, aunt of VN’s mother, and Sergey. The dachshund is Trainy. Vyra 1908. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

From left to right: VN, Kirill, Olga, Sergey, and Elena. The dachshund is Box II. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
From left to right: VN, Kirill, Olga, Sergey, and Elena. The dachshund is Box II. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN’s father, 1921. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN’s father, 1921. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN and VéN, Berlin, 1923. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN and VéN, Berlin, 1923. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN, VéN and their son Dmitri. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN, VéN and their son Dmitri. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN and VéN, Montreux, 1966.
VN and VéN, Montreux, 1966. Photo by Philippe Halsman © Halsman Archive.

 

VN and his many interests and engagements

 

VN, second from left, on a tennis court in Berlin, c. 1922. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN, second from left, on a tennis court in Berlin, c. 1922. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN at Domaine Beaulieu, near Toulon, in Provence, 1923. His experiences as a farmhand are lent to Martin, the protagonist of Glory, during Martin’s stay in Molignac. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN at Domaine Beaulieu, near Toulon, in Provence, 1923. His experiences as a farmhand are lent to Martin, the protagonist of Glory, during Martin’s stay in Molignac. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN writing, 1929. This picture, taken by VéN, inspired VN to write a lengthy caption for its reproduction in Speak, Memory (opp. page 257): “Seldom does a casual snapshot compendiate a  life so precisely.” © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN writing, 1929. This picture, taken by VéN, inspired VN to write a lengthy caption for its reproduction in Speak, Memory (opp. page 257): “Seldom does a casual snapshot compendiate a life so precisely.” © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN in front of his team of the Russian Sports Club in Berlin, 1932. As in Cambridge, he was still “crazy about goal keeping” (SM, 267). © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN in front of his team of the Russian Sports Club in Berlin, 1932. As in Cambridge, he was still “crazy about goal keeping” (SM, 267). © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN hunting butterflies in the vicinity of Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, 1-2 July, 1959. Photographs by Robert H. Boyle.
VN hunting butterflies in the vicinity of Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, 1-2 July, 1959. Photographs by Robert H. Boyle.

 

VN hunting butterflies in the vicinity of Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, 1-2 July, 1959. Photographs by Robert H. Boyle.
VN hunting butterflies in the vicinity of Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, 1-2 July, 1959. Photographs by Robert H. Boyle.
 

 

VN on La Videmanette, twenty miles east of Montreux, and one mile above Montreux, altitude, 1971, hunting butterflies. Photograph by Dmitri Nabokov. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN on La Videmanette, twenty miles east of Montreux, and one mile above Montreux, altitude, 1971, hunting butterflies. Photograph by Dmitri Nabokov. © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN admiring the weeping cedar in the garden of Montreux Palace, a tree he was “especially fond of” (SO 55). © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.
VN admiring the weeping cedar in the garden of Montreux Palace, a tree he was “especially fond of” (SO 55). © The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

 

VN in Loèche-les-Bains, Switzerland, 1965. “I go up mountains in pursuit of butterflies, and find just before the timberline a region that corresponds to the Russia of my youth” (Qtd. by Appel 209).
VN in Loèche-les-Bains, Switzerland, 1965. “I go up mountains in pursuit of butterflies, and find just before the timberline a region that corresponds to the Russia of my youth” (Qtd. by Appel 209).

 

Miscellaneous pictures: portraits, paintings, caricatures and sculptures

 

VN in 1967, mimicking the canon in Jan van Eyck, Madonna with Canon Van der Paele.
VN in 1967, mimicking the canon in Jan van Eyck, Madonna with Canon Van der Paele. Photo by Philippe Halsman © Halsman Archive.

 

VN, Montreux, in 1969, the year after the publication of Ada.
VN, Montreux, in 1969, the year after the publication of Ada.

 

VN in 1972. The photo does not allow a proper identification of the butterfly. Dieter Zimmer guesses that it is a pierid, most likely Colias hyale (L., 1958). Nabokov caught three Colias hyale in August 1971, near Saanen.
VN in 1972. The photo does not allow a proper identification of the butterfly. Dieter Zimmer guesses that it is a pierid, most likely Colias hyale (L., 1958). Nabokov caught three Colias hyale in August 1971, near Saanen.

 

VN’s father reading Rech’, the liberal daily he edited, in a pre-Revolutionary Russian caricature in a series “Our Editors,” by “Deni,” for the periodical Stolitsa i Usad’ba (Capital and Estate).
VN’s father reading Rech’, the liberal daily he edited, in a pre-Revolutionary Russian caricature in a series “Our Editors,” by “Deni,” for the periodical Stolitsa i Usad’ba (Capital and Estate).

 

VN. Caricature by J. Faczynski for the cover of the 1960 edition of Nabokov’s Dozen by Penguin Books.
VN. Caricature by J. Kaczynski.
Front cover in its entirety from NABOKOV'S DOZEN by Vladimir Nabokov (Penguin Books, 1960) Copyright © Penguin Books Ltd, 1960

 

VN by Siegfried Woldhek. Woldhek’s caricatures of literary characters often illustrate The New York Review of Books.
VN by Siegfried Woldhek. Woldhek’s caricatures of literary characters often illustrate The New York Review of Books.

 

VN. Aquarelle by Magda Nachman, a friend of VN’s, made in 1933. Nachman studied in St. Petersburg at the Zvantseva Art Academy, where Mstislav Dobuzhinsky lectured. In Lina Bernstein’s forthcoming life of Nachman, a chapter is devoted to VN and Nachman’s relationship.
VN. Pastel by Magda Nachman, a friend of VN’s, made in 1933. Nachman studied in St. Petersburg at Bakst’s Zvantseva Art Academy, where Mstislav Dobuzhinsky lectured. In Lina Bernstein’s forthcoming life of Nachman, a chapter is devoted to VN and Nachman’s relationship.

 

 Oil painting of VN by Ellen van Boggelen-Heutink; by courtesy of the artist. (http://www.ellenheutink.nl)
Oil painting of VN by Ellen van Boggelen-Heutink; by courtesy of the artist. (http://www.ellenheutink.nl)
 

 

VN by Miguel Baca Rossi (1917 – 2016), one of Peru’s foremost sculptors. The bass-relief belongs to the collection of the Nabokov Museum, St. Petersburg, where it is exhibited in the former dining room.
VN by Miguel Baca Rossi (1917 – 2016), one of Peru’s foremost sculptors. The bas-relief belongs to the collection of the Nabokov Museum, St. Petersburg, where it is exhibited in the former dining room.

 

The Nabokov Monument in the garden of Montreux Palace by Alexander and Philipp Rukavishnikov. It was unveiled in 1999 on VN’s birthday and centenary, 23 April, by Dmitri Nabokov. (See Delage-Toriel)
The Nabokov Monument in the garden of Montreux Palace by Alexander and Philipp Rukavishnikov. It was unveiled in 1999 on VN’s birthday and centenary, 23 April, by Dmitri Nabokov. Photo: René & Peter van der Krogt, standbeelden.vanderkrogt.net
 

 

Introduction | Gallery | Acknowledgements | Bibliography