Peter the great interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich in Peterhof

Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge • Painting, 1871, 135.7×173 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Historical scene
Style of art: Realism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1871
Size: 135.7×173 cm
Artwork in selections: 57 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Peter the great interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich in Peterhof»

Picture "Peter I interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich at Peterhof" – "business card" by Nikolai GE – became a sensation on the first traveling exhibition in 1871, the year. Neither before nor after it, GE was no longer able to repeat such success. Rumors about the grandeur of this work began to spread, yet she was in the Studio and was never finished. Kramskoydrove to the Studio to GE Shishkinand Perovspecifically to "stun" their picture and remembers that the produced effect of one of them lost the gift of speech: "Perov subsided and the impression did not say". Pavel Tretyakovacquired the painting for his gallery in advance – even before it was presented to the public. When, finally, it happened and the crowds from morning to night standing in front of the canvas, Kramskoy used in a letter to the artist Vasilyeva phrase that later became legendary: "GE reigns firmly".

The history of the idea

Prior to that, GE didn't write on historical themes and in General they do not particularly complain about. But, joining a cohort of Wanderers, time imbued their creative interests. It was in 1871 year, and Russia was preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Peter the Great (1672-1725). The approaching anniversary has aggravated long-standing disputes about the role of Peter in Russian history. Therefore, in the picture of GE, many will then "acitivate" own meanings, fiercely arguing: he lifted up the reformer or is it condemned? On the side of Peter the painter, or he sympathizes with the Tsarevich Alexei, who will ignominiously die?

Preparation for work

The selection of the material and the preparatory works, the artist came extremely responsible. He studied all the available images of Peter in the Hermitage – graphic, sculptural and pictorial, and sketched his death mask. Tsarevich Alexei was more difficult because it is authentic images are preserved less. But GE has found a non-trivial way. He had a friend, named Nicholas Zaitsevskii, a minor official from the Ministry of Finance with an extremely thin and sickly face. GE found it similar to the known portraits of the Prince and asked to pose in order to convey his posture and look.

A special role in the film played perfectly written interior, and this is also linked to an interesting story. GE came to the residence of Peter – the empty Peterhof, Monplaisir Palace and took in the room of the Emperor his dressing gown and cap. The guard at the Palace, an old retired soldier, was deeply moved to tears: how he works here – only two people came to look at the personal belongings of Peter: Nikolai GE Yes the Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich, who is on a cap and gown Peter still tried.

13 years later, GE will tell the Kiev students: "I my memory brought home the entire background of his painting "Peter I and Alex", fireplace, eaves, with four paintings of the Dutch school, with chairs, flooring and lighting. I was only once in this room, and was once intentionally, in order not to break the experience that made".

Speaking parts

• On the table in front of Peter is the ink and scattered papers, a few sheets also lying at his feet. I believe that this testimony, knocked out of "girls Euphrosyne, Efrosinyevsky" – "polubowny" Alexis, you just gave birth in the fortress of the baby. It was her evidence, historians believe, played in the fate of the Prince a fatal role.

• For the longest time GE had to find a pattern for tablecloth. To find it failed on one of the Dutch paintings. The tablecloth came out extremely expressive detail. Critics point out that it's like a bloody stain, which separate the father and the son.

• GE has tried many variants of the composition. First, he wanted Peter is located on the background of an open window. But then I decided that it would be too picturesque (worse than this is that "throw chairs on the floor") and moved the wall with the fireplace, which is actually located before the eyes of Peter, the place of the background.

• The room has a Dutch spirit low (like Palace) ceilings – Peter is just such loved, and cellular tile floor only adds to the atmosphere of restraint and mutual distrust.

The picture of Kye in the perception of contemporaries

Russian Newspapers reacted to the appearance of the painting "Peter I interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich at Peterhof". Most of them, as one would assume, interested, "who GE", who is right in this historical conflict.

• The newspaper "Delo" was entirely on the side of Alex: "Darting from the figure of Peter, this tightly seated person with a beautiful but obese and very nemyslim face to tired, but very expressive face of Prince with a high forehead, with sunken cheeks, if you see an extremely nice, advanced, but polosamote prisoner standing before the investigator from the bourgeois animal inclinations an the main".

• The writer Saltykov-Shchedrin, on the contrary, considered that all the sympathy of GE given to Peter: "Apparently, the personality of Peter is extremely cute Mr. GE, but it could not be otherwise... In the person of Peter, no anger, no threats, and there are deep human suffering".

• The newspaper "the Voice" decided to divide the blame for the coming tragedy equally between Peter and Alexis: "GE has neglected theatrical effects, to which so loves to resort mediocrity. In the sight of Peter is not noticeable nor anger, nor even severity. Eyes this just a cold, but his blood freezes in your veins. In silence both individuals heard the screams of torture and the horrors of the torture chamber".

• And the "Russian Gazette" found that "GE is not deep enough to have penetrated into its mission" and just have distorted the identity of the Prince: "Miserable, emaciated and extremely unpleasant figure – surely this is the son of Peter the Great, and not some German doctor?"

• "The Russian Bulletin" echoed "Exchange news": "The face of the Prince reminds the Estonian native town of Reval; no Regal majestic features..."

The controversy in the press has incessantly. Some said that the picture – perfect, others scolded her for "a strange impression that the picture lacked something". Some have argued that GE was acquitted, and exalted to the reformer, others that he puts him in reproach inhuman treatment of his son. In his "Notes" by Nikolai GE says that at first, indeed, sympathetic to Peter, but, after reviewing a variety of documents (in 1859, the year just released the 6th volume of the "History of Peter the great" Ustryalov Professor, sheds light on the story of Tsarevich Alexei), I realized that no reforms could not justify sinobest and sympathy to Peter during his work he even had to artificially "inflate".

Author: Anna Yesterday