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Lamenting christ

Icon painting, 1884

Description of the artwork «Lamenting christ»

In the 1880s, the work of updating the mural began in the ancient Cyril Church, founded in 1139 in Kiev. They were led by art historian and archaeologist Adrian Prakhov, who was also in charge of the decoration of the newly built Vladimir Cathedral at that time. In the restoration, he invited to participate, in addition to students and teachers of the Kiev drawing school Nikolai Murashko, several more students of the Imperial Academy of Arts. Among them was Mikhail Vrubel, whose name at that time did not tell anyone anything.

The fact is that the budget allocated for painting was extremely limited, and Prakhov was puzzled by the search for an artist who would agree to do the laborious work of just 1,200 rubles - a small amount for such a task (four images for the iconostasis plus several frescoes). He went to the Academy of Arts for advice to Professor Pavel Chistyakov, and he recommended that he consider the candidacy of a promising student Vrubel.

Prakhov recalled: “After a few days, I visited him, looked through all the work and made sure that I was dealing with outstanding talent, an excellent draftsman, and most importantly for me, a stylist who understands the ancient world well and is able, with some guidance, to cope well with the Byzantine style, which at that time was not respected among the artistic youth. ” Vrubel readily agreed to go to Kiev, as he was very financially constrained, and the proposed amount was more than attractive for him.

The artist worked on the painting of the Cyril Church for almost six months, from May to November 1884. Prakhov, a cultural specialist in ancient Greece and the East, who traveled all over Europe, conducting research, became his mentor and made available his vast library. In Kiev, there were also enough visual materials from the history of Greek and Old Russian art: Vrubel studied mosaics of the 11th-12th centuries in St. Sophia Cathedral and St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery and was completely immersed in the development of the subtleties of Byzantine icon painting.

The result of his work in the Cyril Church became the composition "Descent of the Holy Spirit"(Prototypes of the apostles on the fresco were learned men and clergymen of Kiev)," Angels with Labars ", imagesMother of God with the Baby, Archangel Gabriel,the prophet mosesand others. The son of Prakhov, Nikolai (also an artist and art critic), wrote in his memoirs how his father tested Vrubel. He gave him the task to recreate the image of the Archangel Gabriel of the 12th century, from which only one outline remained. Prakhov liked the result: the artist painted the fresco strictly according to the Byzantine canon, without introducing anything original in it - this was always appreciated in religious painting, especially in liturgical institutions.

The last Vrubel painted a fresco, as Nikolai Prakhov calls it, "Mourning the body of Christ with three archangels that flocked to his grave." The artist prepared four sketches to choose from for his leader, but he, because of his busyness, could not look at them. Then Vrubel made a choice at his discretion and hastily wrote it without a preliminary primer right on the old whitewash.

Upon arrival at the Cyril Church, Prakhov admired the result, refusing to consider the fresco as a sketch: “But what is this sketch, Mikhail Alexandrovich ?! He exclaimed. - This is a magnificent, completely finished work of art! Nothing more to add and redo it! Write only a statement to the construction office about the end of the work and get the money followed for it. That's all. Congratulations!"

Unfortunately, this haste subsequently turned sideways: after the revolution, fragments of the paint layer began to disappear from the fresco. In 1939, the Committee for the Arts made a decision to restore it according to the Italian method: stucco drank and transfer it to a zinc board. This was achieved after the end of World War II.

The author: Natalia Azarenko
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About the artwork

Art form: Icon painting

Subject and objects: Religious scene

Technique: Fresco

Date of creation: 1884

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