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Holy Russia

Painting, 1905, 233×375 cm

Description of the artwork «Holy Russia»

Mikhail Nesterov wrote "Holy Russia" six years. The idea originated in 1901, when the artist decided to move away from the murals of the churches and return to easel painting. To search for typecasting Nesterov went to the Solovetsky monastery on the White sea: he wanted the details to consider the old way of life of the monks among the severe nature. Nesterov has formulated the aim of the work: "I want to sum up my best thoughts, the best part of yourself" (he said in a letter to his friend, artist Alexander Turygin).

The idea

The artist wanted to create something like Ivanovo "The appearance of Christ to the people" one of his favorite paintings. It was intended to demonstrate how the Russian people themselves moving to the ideal – to Christ. To this topic he already addressed in the paintings of the Martha and Mary Church in Moscow. A centuries-old tradition did not allow to depict the frescoes anybody except the saints and persons who are bound by their lives and acts. Nesterov on one of the frescoes portrayed ordinary people who are coming to Christ.


The artist made several sketches of the painting in the background of spring and autumn landscapes. In the final version portrayed winter. "Six months of winter – is the destiny of the Russian people"– later explained his choice. Work on the painting first was conducted in Kiev. Landscape background – the first thing he wrote and was very pleased with the work. Wrote in his diary: "Nothing happened. Frosty".

Figures of the common people

The canvas depicts 6 male and 10 female figures coming to Christ.

Monk-Pomor in the header. According to Nesterov, it looked like a typical monk of the Solovetsky monastery.

A boy–monk with crossed hands. The young man, whose image the artist captured in the picture, also met him on Solovki. Nesterov noted the sickly appearance of the young man and decided that to live fact remained on the force for two years. I couldn't resist and wrote this painful expression.

A tall old man, a monk with glasses. Prototype – an 80-year-old monk of the Chernigov monasteries.

Children, on which it is based, – the peasants of Mytischi.

A young nun is written with the daughter of the artist-peredvizhnika Grigory Yartsev.

A woman in a dark patterned scarf – nanny Seraphim from Ufa. It served as a model for many female images Nesterov.

Shimonahinya in the far right corner of the picture – the face of his dying mother Nesterov. For the first time and the mother allowed the son to write her portrait only before death.

The woman supporting bossou in green – the artist's sister, Alexandra. Her figure and face are painted over the figure of Maxim Gorky. Yes, initially Nesterov wanted to enter in a picture of members of the then intelligentsia. And Bitter they immediately hit it off, met back in 1900. The writer was a fan of talent Nesterov. "It's always easier to know you" later the artist wrote in the diary. But this time the image seemed bitter Nesterov inappropriate. Intellectuals he would later depict in another symbolic pattern – "The soul of the people".

Christ and the saints

Near Christ the artist has depicted St. Nicholas, Sergius of Radonezh and St. George. According to Nesterov, he chose the most venerated saints of the Russian people. Figures of saints are taken from the iconographic sketches for paintings of churches.

The image of Christ the artist wrote of the priest Konstantin Rudnev, the rector of the Church in Abastumani, which was painted by Nesterov. Maximilian Voloshin called the Savior's figure on the painting "a mannequin in a striking pose".


During the writing of "Holy Russia," Nesterov several times opened his Studio to visitors. May 3, 1902, to look at the work of the artist came the lady Ekaterina Vasilyeva. "Holy Russia" was particularly impressed with the girl, and she had a long chat with Nesterov about this work. On 7 July of the same year, Nesterov and Vasiliev were married in Kislovodsk. Lived together for 40 years.

Exhibition and reviews

Karina "Holy Russia" became Central in Nesterovskaya the exhibition, which opened on 5 January 1907 in St Petersburg. The first 7 years. The exhibition was a great success: there were days when it was visited by 2000 people or more.

The reaction of his contemporaries was mixed. For example, Leo Tolstoy said about "Holy Russia": "He was supposed to paint Christ the way I see it, all these people who stand before him. They can't see it in the image of the Italian tenor. This is a memorial service for Russian Orthodoxy".

Nesterov first called this painting his best creation. Towards the end of life, sadly noticed that the job failed.

Author: Elena Siroid

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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Religious scene

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1905

Size: 233×375 cm

Artwork in selections: 18 selections

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