In payment for the doctor's saving his life, a young man gives Dr. Koshelkov an antique bronze candelabra. The candelabra features "two female figures in the costume of Eve and in attitudes for the description of which I have neither the courage nor the fitting temperament." While the doctor finds the piece obscene, the young man chides him for not appreciating fine art. Finally, the doctor accepts the candelabra, but decides to give it to Uhov the lawyer, to whom he is indebted.

Uhov, in turn, judges the naked figures to be too raunchy: "I should be ashamed for my servants to see it." Yet, he is pressured to accept the gift. The same night he foists off the candelabra to Shashkin, the comic actor, who subsequently sells it. Two days later, the original young patient rushes into Dr. Koshelkov's office with the original candelabra, proclaiming that his mother had just discovered it in a shop. "Happily for you we have succeeded in picking up the pair to your candelabra!"


What goes around, comes around. Is there a moral to this story? "A Work of Art" belongs to the category of Chekhov tales that might be called "clever fables." If there is moral merit in the tale, it goes to the patient and his mother, who are so generous that they give the doctor a "second" candelabra to enhance his aesthetic pleasure.


First published: 1886. Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol.13: Love and Other Stories



Place Published

New York

Page Count