Mikhail Vrubel • Painting, 1899, 124×106 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Mythological scene
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1899
Size: 124×106 cm
Artwork in selections: 103 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Pan»

"Pan." - one of the nocturnes of Mikhail Vrubel's Fairytale Cycle - a series of paintings that are united by the time of action (dusk or night), as well as mythological and fairytale characters. In Greek mythology, Pan is the god of fertility and wildlife, the patron of shepherds and cattlemen. He was born with goat's legs, horns and beard, and from his early childhood he had a wild temper. Even the word "panic" owes its origin to this unusual character.

Vrubel wrote the picture in just two days. In the summer of 1899 the artist with his wife Nadezhda visited the Orlov Province - in the estate Khotylevo, where they were invited by Princess Maria Tenisheva. He depicted his patroness in the image of a militant Valkyries from a Scandinavian epic, and then undertook a portrait of his wife. However, the impulsive creator did not bring the work to an end - this was the story of composer Boris Yanovsky, who arrived at the Tenishev estate at Vrubel's invitation: "The portrait was already nearing its end. One evening Vrubel read a book by Anatole France ''Puit de s-t Glair''. He was impressed by the story, where an old satirist tells about a long time ago. The very next morning, Vrubel, before my eyes, scraped away the portrait of his wife, who had begun to paint "Pan" (he himself called it "Satyr"). This work is so captivated him that a day later he called his wife and me and showed us a nearly complete picture!

The musician noted that the landscape in the background Vrubel wrote from nature - the view opened from the terrace Khotylevskoy manor. He also recalled the remark Repina that the satyr's shoulder is crumpled: "which, however, Vrubel himself agreed with".

Although in the picture "Pan" the ancient Greek god is more reminiscent of the Russian woodsman. The figure of the mighty old man with a sly squint seems to grow out of the ground, and several birches in the background only reinforce the similarity with the hero of Russian fairy tales. Apparently, to avoid confusion and ambiguity the artist put a whistle, Pan's invariable attribute, in his hand. According to legend, to its sound he arranges noisy dances in the company of joyful nymphs.

In spite of Pan's bent, even somewhat slouching posture, his image inspires a sense of strength. His broad shoulders and muscular arms are a little out of place in the image of an elderly, gray-haired old man. There are associations with the forces of nature, which may be peaceful and benevolent, like a warm summer night, but can also be dangerous and demolish everything in its path during storms and thunderstorms.

Pan's figure occupies the greater part of the canvas and dominates its composition. Its rhythm is supported by rhythmical lines created by the tilt of mythical character's shoulder, tree trunks behind him, bushes and crescent moon in the background. The main part of the painting is done with quick, light strokes, which is contrasted with filigree painted fingers of Pan's left hand, locks of his hair and beard as well as his face.

The piercing gaze of blue eyes is set off by bright accents of blue: a flower in the foreground and glimpses of water surface on the sides. Mystical atmosphere of the painting fascinates and immerses into the elements of summer night. The singing of crickets and the greeting of birds waking up before dawn seem to be heard any minute. Vrubel was particularly good at depicting mythological and fairytale characters ("A sitting demon", "Swan Princess"), and the painting "Pan" is among his most impressive works.

Author: Natalia Azarenko