In this short story, Nicolai Gogol (1809-1852), writes about an evil that seems to possess a portrait. The most distinguishing part of the portrait are the eyes that seem to bore into a person's soul. The story starts off with the portrait being found by Chartkov, an amateur but promising artist. Although the Chartkov becomes rich on account of the portrait, he seems to lose his natural gift.
As the story progresses, the portrait seems to cause agony to everyone who owns it. It appears to suck out all happiness from its owners. The owners of the portrait start feeling hatred, jealousy, despair, pessimism and other such emotions. Incidentally, as soon as they get rid of the portrait, the become their former selves. Everyone who has come across the intriguing portrait agree that there is something sinister about it. This way Gogol adds the supernatural element that can be seen in his other stories such as 'The Terrible Vengeance' and 'The Overcoat'.
Gogol then takes a detour to another story. Towards the end he joins the two stories with a style that is distinctly Gogol. We can see this style in 'The Terrible Vengeance'. Both these stories justify the present events based on a dark past.