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Messengers. Early morning in the Kremlin. Early 17th century

Apollinary Vasnetsov • Painting, 1913, 125×177 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Urban landscape, Historical scene
Style of art: Realism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1913
Size: 125×177 cm
Artwork in selections: 9 selections

Description of the artwork «Messengers. Early morning in the Kremlin. Early 17th century»

Early in the morning arrived the messengers to the Kremlin in the painting by the younger Vasnetsov. It was the Time of Troubles. More specifically, the artist does not indicate dates and events, but most likely Boris Godunov is still alive, and Dmitry the Pretender has already gathered his army and is moving to Moscow. Isn’t it what the messengers are carrying the alarming news about?

We can see an early winter morning, the city is immersed in sleep, but in some places, there is smoke above the chimneys — either they have already fired the furnace, or have kept it warm all night. Riders on lathered horses, a warrior and a monk, burst into this peaceful picture. It seems that the rushing clatter of hooves on the wooden pavement breaks the morning silence. Obviously, they drove the horses all night in a hurry and now they anxiously look back, as if fearing pursuit. The horsemen did not slow their horses to a walk in the city boundaries, trying to bring their message as soon as possible. Clearly, the messengers arrived with some bad news. Anxiety is conveyed indirectly, through elements of the historical landscape (as always, masterfully reproduced by Apollinary Vasnetsov).

The background is occupied by the Kremlin wall with dark loopholes. It contrasts with the cosy tower houses in the foreground and adds its own note to the atmosphere of ominous warning. On the right, around the bird adorning the house roof, a flock of black birds hovers, they also seem to foretell trouble. Remember the task of the “golden cockerels”? They monitored vigilantly whether the city was in danger. It seems that by the time the human messengers get to the royal chambers, the bird messengers have already passed the sad news to the bird guard. The tower on the left side of the pavement is guarded by a chimera with an open mouth, this image enhances the feeling of impending adversity.

In 1900, Apollinary Vasnetsov flew over Moscow in a hot air balloon in order to see the whole city he loved so much from a height. It seems, he opened not only space, but also time. His relationship with old Moscow was as if both the thickness of the earth and the wall of time became transparent under his gaze, so clearly saw he what, where and how it was before. The archaeological research of Apollinary Vasnetsov was highly valued, he had a professional flair and a thorough approach to the collection and study of documents of the epoch. He loved Moscow not as an end result, which he could appreciate at the moment he lived in. He had an integral image of Moscow before his eyes, in which the whole Moscow was located, from the time when the first wooden buildings were erected there. Sometimes it seems that, looking at Moscow, he saw its future, the city it was just about to become. That is why his paintings of old Moscow are so authentic and vivid that we unconditionally believe in them, not as in attempts to recreate the past, but as in the most real bygone reality.

Written by Aliona Esaulova