“Uncle Valerian was extremely shy. He had always been in love with my aunt Zeneide Youssoupoff, and had wanted to marry her. But he could never get up the courage to ask her. He was too timorous and unworldly to propose. Yet Aunt Zeneide was very fond of him, and my mother always said that Zeneide would have married him if he had asked her.
The funny thing was that Father, according to my mother (Princess Marie Obolensky, nee Narishkin), had also fallen in love with Zeneide before he began courting my mother. Then he discovered that his older brother Valerian was secretly interested in Zeneide, so Father retired and left the field to him. But as Valerian never mustered up enough courage to propose, Zeneide married General Youssoupoff, and Father married Mother, and Uncle Valerian never married anyone.”-Prince Serge Obolensky, One Man in His Time
Portrait of Anna Alexandrovna Obolenskaya (1887). Charles Auguste Émile Durand, known as Carolus-Duran (French, 1837-1917). Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
Carolus-Duran, a fashionable society portraitist, arrived in Russia in 1876 at the invitation of Alexander Polovtsov, a senator and secretary of state under Alexander III. While there, he painted several family members, including Polovtsov’s daughter Anna, who married Prince Alexei Obolensky, a high-ranking state official.
The prince, being a representative of ancient Russian noble family, devoted his life not to military or public service but to study of russian history and archives. He published many archives of 16-17 century and collected objects of that period.