This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Lavinia Bazhbeuk-Melikian (April 3, 1922)

The Bazhbeuk-Melikians, a family with old roots in Tiflis, nowadays Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, have formed an artistic dynasty. Famous portraitist Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikian (1891-1966) had three children, Lavinia, Zuleyka (b. 1939) and Vazgen (1941-2004), and all of them followed their father’s career. Lavinia was named after the daughter of Titian, the famous Italian Renaissance painter.
She was born in Tbilisi on April 3, 1922. She moved to Yerevan in 1935 and, after finishing high school, she entered the Panos Terlemezian Art Institute in 1941, graduating three years later. In 1951, she graduated from the V. Surikov Art Institute in Moscow.
In 1962, she participated in the groundbreaking exhibition of the “Five,” which opened the path for Armenian modernist art. The most famous name of the five painters included in this exhibition was that of Minas Avetisian (1928-1975), who was accompanied by Lavinia Bazhbeuk-Melikian, Alexander Grigorian, Arpenik Ghapantsian, and Henrik Siravian. In 1967 L. Bazhbeuk-Melikian earned the title of Artist Emeritus of Armenia and in 1983 she was named Popular Artist of Armenia. Five years later, she was elected corresponding member of the Art Academy of Russia, becoming full member in 2002. She earned the title of Emeritus Artist of Russia in 1997.
She was a master of portrait, in her father’s steps, showing her contemporaries with psychological detail. Several of her portraits are particularly noted: “Self-portrait with S. Zhilinskaya” (1973), “Theater director Marat Varzhapetian” (1973), “Self-portrait” (1979), “Zuleyka’s portrait” (1987), “Arshak” (2003). Her landscapes (“Rocks,” 1976), still lifes (“Still life with statuette,” 1965; “Still life,” 1972; “Still life with Venus mask,” 2000), and symbolic images (“Angel,” 1998) have also been praised, and they are characterized by the vitality of their colors and details. Her works are found in the National Gallery of Armenia, the Museum of Modern Art of Yerevan, and other collections.
Lavinia Bazhbeuk-Melikian’s last years were shattered by the robbery of 21 masterpieces of her father from her home in August 2003. Although the thieves were apprehended, tried, and sentenced, the details of the robbery were not disclosed, as well as the fate of the paintings, about which there were various contradictory statements and publications. The shock suffered by the eighty-year-old painter and her inability to change the situation led her to illness and finally death on November 8, 2005, in Yerevan, at the age of eighty-three.
Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (