I assume that our scene in Vladimir Makovsky’s Hiring a Servant depicts a family interviewing a potential housemaid. Though she's clearly referenced in the title of our piece, I believe the real subject is the family and their varied reactions toward the young woman. Each figure displays a distinct attitude which contributions tension to the scene. As the family views their guest with scrutiny, I find myself observing them in a similar manner.
One would deduce that the new servant has just moments ago entered the room, as the family appears to have been interrupted, perhaps during a meal. The Father, involved in some unidentifiable activity (maybe smokin' a long pipe), seems annoyed by her presence, maybe not wanting to hire another servant at all. Dressed in that white jacket, he's thr most prominent figure in our scene. The Mother appears more composed and attentive to the task, giving the young woman a firm assessment. As for the two boys, the one to the left is preoccupied with his sandwich, probably completely indifferent to the situation, while the one to the right seems curious, maybe even sympathetic, to their potential new maid. And standing beside the young lady we have an older woman whom I presume to be the sole or head housemaid, and she seems just as critical toward their guest as the others. The facial expressions and body language exhibited throughout this piece creates a realistic portrait of the family.
Furthermore, even though this might be the beginning of their meeting, why wasn't the young woman offered to remove her street garments upon entry into their home, and to then be led into the dining room where she interrupts her prospective employers? That doesn't seem like a great first impression. Maybe this wasn't a scheduled appointment but instead a random drop by on behalf of our servant, desperately seeking for work, but in any case, the family exhibits a certain rudeness toward their guests which speaks for their values. Or who knows, maybe it's just really cold in their home.
Though they're apparently wealthy enough the hire servants, their home seems quite modest with little decoration, so perhaps they are wise with money. Also, the picture frame above is hanging crooked, indicating that some extra help is needed around the house.
As I've mentioned before, I love these domestic genre scenes. They often contain any number of nuances which lead to different viewer interpretations.