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What is truth? Christ and Pilate

Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge • Painting, 1890, 233×171 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Religious scene
Style of art: Realism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1890
Size: 233×171 cm
Artwork in selections: 75 selections

Description of the artwork «What is truth? Christ and Pilate»

In the late autumn of 1889 Nikolai GE conceived it "What is truth? Christ and Pilate"representing a picturesque version of the 18th Chapter of the gospel of John. It was finished incredibly fast – by mid-January, 1890-th, and a month later, shown on the 18th the traveling exhibition. As always, GE carefully prepared for the work: went from his farm several times in Kiev, something studied, ordered fabric for clothes of their heroes. Of them for a few days daughter-in-law GE, Katherinemade a toga for Governor and rags for Christ.

Jesus and Pilate-Kyo is written with unusual for the late nineteenth century sharpness. Pilate with his expressive, powerful head and broad back shown powerful Roman, arrogant sybarite. He turns his question to the accused without anger or malice, with an arrogant sneer. Pilate hardly interested in the answer to his question "What is truth?" – he believes that he knows it himself. Between him and Christ is a beam of light, separating them, like a sword; it brings to mind other words of Christ: "It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34). But even more unusual is the Christ.

Going from the Renaissance tradition to portray Jesus physically beautiful man in Russian painting is interrupted just at Nicolae GE. Christ is shown so worn, with blackened face and unkempt hair that niece Zoe Kye had the temerity to notice that He is ugly. This remark angered GE, which was responded to by Zoe hot rebuke: "Beautiful! Do you know what a beautiful person, just a beautiful horse, a dog, a pig! The person should be intelligent, kind, but never abstractly beautiful. You can not write "beautiful" Christ once burned and killed tens of thousands of Christ, Gusov, Bruno... Is it possible that you, seeing the persecuted, afflicted, tormented man, first of all pay attention to what his nose and those eyes? Are you more nose than his terrible position".

"Vulgar realism"

At the exhibition the painting met the bad: unfriendly press was silent, and the audience, as reported in a letter to his son's wife-Kyo, directly in front of the painting was done at the party, began to argue and quarrel, that is not familiar with each other people were ready to pounce on each other with fists. A little later the magazine "Ears" broke killer review: "Where to find on that face an expression of deep torment for mankind and clear, joyous consciousness of his mission performed? Look at the picture and you will see... evil, unsympathetic Jew. Nothing betrays not only the son of God, but even just a brilliant and honorable man". GE was accused of "vulgar realism" and called "symoblises mediocrity". In the end, after three weeks of esponiage, "What is truth?" was removed after the scandal from the show and eliminated from the catalog. This was the order of the Emperor Alexander III. This meant that a picture is forbidden to display in Russia. Pavel Tretyakovseriously feared, as if someone destroyed the painting in the Tretyakov gallery, and, with all due respect to GE, refused to buy it, than has caused indignation of Leo Tolstoy, who wrote about GE Tretyakov: "I sincerely felt sorry for him that he by mistake miss that picture, in whose name he buys all the rubbish, hoping that, collecting all the manure, will get the pearl".

There was, however, an enthusiast – someone N. D. Ilyin, barrister according to his service, and fanatical Tolstoyan vocation – which undertook to organize the screenings of the picture GE in Europe and the United States. This has been implemented. But the picture is not realized: apparently the time has not come yet.

Painting with a secret

Tatyana Lvovna Sukhotina-Tolstaya, the writer's daughter, in his memoirs mentioned that the picture "What is truth? Christ and Pilate" GE wrote on top of another painting, also on a biblical theme. The first picture was called "Mercy" and depicted Christ and the woman of Samaritan at the well. "Mercy" was received poorly, and Kyo not experienced awe in front of their own works: a painting that seemed to him good enough, he could easily record, cut off part of the canvas and even throw in a workshop at his feet.

In 2011, the year the Tretyakov gallery held a major exhibition of GE. By that time the opportunity to verify the words of Tatyana Lvovna with the help of x-rays (they were made in the course of study of not less than 30) and other modern techniques. Indeed, under the paint layer of the painting "What is truth?" found lost Mercy.

Rounded dark spot that stood out in the picture between the faces of the characters in the movie, "What is truth?", once was a head of Christ from the painting "Charity", and the Samaritan woman GE is altered in the figure of Christ. The resulting reconstruction of "Mercy" in 2011, the year he exhibited next to the painting "What is truth?"

Author: Anna Yesterday