Saturday, July 11, 2020

09 Works, Today, July 11th, is Saint Olga's day, her story in art #192

Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov
St. Olga. Holy Princess Olga
Mural sketch of St. Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev
Oil on Canvas
104x39.5 cm
Private collection

Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov (1 May 1862 – 18 October 1942) was a major representative of religious symbolism in Russian art. He was a pupil of Pavel Chistyakov at the Imperial Academy of Arts, but later allied himself with the group of artists known as the Peredvizhniki. His canvas The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew (1890–91), depicting the conversion of medieval Russian Saint Sergei Radonezhsky, is often considered to be the earliest example of the Russian Symbolist style.

From 1890 to 1910, Nesterov lived in Kiev and Saint Petersburg, working on frescoes in St. Vladimir's Cathedral and the Church on Spilt Blood, respectively. After 1910, he spent the remainder of his life in Moscow, working in the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent. As a devout Orthodox Christian, he did not accept the Bolshevik Revolution but remained in Russia until his death, painting the portraits of Ivan Ilyin, Ivan Pavlov, Ksenia Derzhinskaya, Otto Schmidt, and Vera Mukhina, among others. More on Mikhail Nesterov

Saint Olga, also called Helga or Saint Olga of Kiev, (born c. 890—died 969, Kiev), was the first recorded female ruler in Russia and the first member of the ruling family of Kiev to adopt Christianity. She was canonized as the first Russian saint of the Orthodox Church and is the patron saint of widows and converts.

Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, (1848–1926)
The Invitation of the Varangians: Rurik and his brothers arrive in Staraya Ladoga, c. 1909
House-Museum of Viktor Vasnetsov, Moscow

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (May 15 (N.S.), 1848 – July 23, 1926) was a Russian artist who specialized in mythological and historical subjects. He is considered the co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic nationalistic painting, and a key figure in the Russian revivalist movement.

From the age of ten, Viktor studied in a seminary in Vyatka. During his seminary years, he worked for a local icon shopkeeper. 


Having graduated from the seminary, Viktor decided to move to Saint Petersburg to study art. He auctioned his paintings, in order to raise money required for the trip to the Russian capital. In August 1867 Viktor entered the Imperial Academy of Arts.

He won a bronze medal at the World Fair in London (1874).

In 1876 Viktor moved to Paris where he studied classical and contemporary paintings, academist and Impressionist alike.

In the late 1870s Vasnetsov concentrated on illustrating Russian fairy tales and the epic narrative poem Bylinas, executing some of his best known pieces. 

In 1884-1889 Vasnetsov was commissioned to paint frescos in the St Vladimir's Cathedral of Kiev. This was a challenging work which ran contrary to both Russian and Western traditions of religious paintings. More on Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

Her parents were Varyags, better known as the Norse Vikings who settled Russia; and ruled the medieval state of Kievan Rus', and settled among many territories of modern Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, and formed the Byzantine

Little is known about her life before her marriage to Prince Igor I of Kiev and the birth of their son, Svyatoslav.

Like all rising empires, Kievan Rus’ had grown at the expense of its neighbours and one tribe, the Drevlians, had grown wary of their smothering embrace.

Klavdy Lebedev, (1852–1916)
Prince Igor collects tribute from the Drevlyans in 945
Oil on canvas
I have no further description of this artwork at this time


Klavdy Vasiliyevich Lebedev (October 16 (28), 1852 – September 21 (N.S. October 4), 1916) was a Russian painter, a member of the realist artist group The Wanderers.

Lebedev came from a peasant family, studied at the Stroganov Moscow State Academy of Arts and Industry and the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under Vasily Perov and Evgraf Sorokin. From 1890 he taught there.

In 1881 he was awarded a large silver medal of the Imperial Academy of Arts and received the title of a class artist. Member of The Wanderers group. The title of academician of painting of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1897). The title of full member of the Academy of Arts (1906).


Full-time professor of the Academy of Arts (1894–1898). More on Klavdy Lebedev

The relationship between the Drevlians and Kievan Rus’ was complex – they had joined the Rus’ in military campaigns against the Byzantine Empire and paid tribute to Igor’s predecessors, but stopped in 912 when the previous prince died and instead paid this glorified protection money to a local warlord.

Igor’s attempted to restore his privileges in 945 with a trip to their capital of Iskorosten, in Northern Ukraine. This visit was a slap in the face and the Drevlians fought back, seizing the prince and murdering him in a gristly display. They had bent down two birch trees to the prince’s feet and tied them to his legs, then they let the trees straighten again, thus tearing the prince’s body apart.

Vasily Surikov
Princess Olga meets the body of Prince Igor, c. 1915
Gouache, watercolor and Italian pencil on paper
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (24 January 1848, Krasnoyarsk – 19 March 1916, Moscow) was a Russian Realist history painter of Siberian origin. Many of his works have become familiar to the general public through their use as illustrations.

In 1859, his father died of tuberculosis so the family were forced to rent the second floor of their house to survive financially. He began drawing while attending the district school and was encouraged by the local art teacher. His first formal work dates from 1862, but his family could not afford to continue his education and he became a clerk in a government office. This brought him into contact with the Governor of Yenisei, who was able to find him a patron.

In 1868, he was unable to qualify for admission to the Imperial Academy of Arts, so he studied at the drawing school of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. 

From 1869 to 1875, he studied with Pavel Chistyakov, Bogdan Willewalde and Pyotr Shamshin, winning several medals. 

In 1877, he received a commission to paint murals at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and he moved to Moscow. He chose to remain in Moscow and began the series of historical paintings that would establish his reputation. 


In 1948, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, his estate in Krasnoyarsk became a museum. Two monuments have been erected there, in 1954 and in 2002. More on Vasily Ivanovich Surikov

Olga was the widow of Igor I, prince of Kiev. Because Igor’s son Svyatoslav was still a minor, Olga became regent of the grand principality of Kiev from 945 to 964.

The Drevians thought they were dealing with just another demure noblewoman who could be easily cowed and arrange to marry her to their own Prince Mal. Not only would they be free from paying tribute to the Kievan Rus’ – they would rule the Kievan Rus’.

The Drevians sent 20 of their best men to try and persuade Olga to marry the living symbol of her husband’s murder. Telling them to wait in their boat, she had a ditch dug and next morning had had the emissaries buried alive.

Bruni, Fyodor Antonovich, (1800-1875)
The Princess Who Buried People Alive, before 1839

Fyodor (Fidelio) Antonovich Bruni (10 June 1799, in Milan – 30 August 1875, in Saint Petersburg) was a Russian artist of Italian descent who worked in the Academic style.

His father, Antonio, was a Swiss Italian painter and art restorer who relocated to Russia in 1800 to work on a project at Saint Michael's Castle for Tsar Paul I. At the age of ten, he was enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Arts.He graduated in 1818 with the title "Artist Class XIV".

His father sent him for further studies in Italy. At the age of twenty-two, he created his first large-scale work. Ten years later, when the painting was shown in Saint Petersburg for the first time, it earned him the title of Academician. He was recalled to Saint Petersburg to work on a project at Saint Isaac's Cathedral and teach at the Academy. He arrived in 1836 and produced several works for the Kazan Cathedral as well. 

In 1838, he was able to return to Rome to finish his work . Two years later hemoved to Saint Petersburg where it was exhibited in one of the halls of the newly restored Winter Palace. Returning to Rome for a third time from 1841 to 1845, he produced twenty-five sketches that would be the basis for frescoes at Saint Isaac's Cathedral. 

In 1849, he became the custodian of the gallery at the Hermitage Museum and was sent abroad twice to acquire paintings for the collection there. Six years later, he became Rector of the Department of Sculpture and Painting at the Academy.


By the time of his death, he was an honorary Professor at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. More on Bruni, Fyodor Antonovich

Olga sent word back to Prince Mal that should would accept his proposal, but only if the Drevians sent a part of their great and good to accompany her back to their territory, after all it was important that the proud Keivan Rus’ see just how important this matchmaking was.

Unknown artist
Revenge of Princess Olga
Radziwill Chronicle
I have no further description of this artwork at this time

Despite not having heard from either of the missions they’d dispatched to Olga’s court, the Drevians set about preparing the feast and after drinking themselves insensible on mead, Olga’s soldiers put 5,000 of them to the sword.

Unknown artist
Olga burns the Drevian capital
Radziwill Chronicle
I have no further description of this artwork at this time


Olga returned to Kiev to prepare an army, and then finished off the survivors.

Unknown artist
Meeting of Olga of Kiev and emperor Konstantin,  c. 1040s - early 1050s
Sofia of Kiev cathedral

Emperor Konstantin VII Bagryanorodny, seated in the palace on the throne, and his two bodyguards, armed with spears and shields. On the right side is Princess Olga with women from her retinue. 

On top of the princess’s head, on top of a white transparent board, there is a stemma, but not a crown, which, by Byzantine law, could be worn only by empresses. In addition, Olga stands, while Konstantin sits. In accordance with court etiquette, in the presence of the emperor everyone was supposed to stand with arms crossed on their chest and lowering their sleeves. The right to sit under the emperor was considered an exclusive privilege, which was occasionally granted to crowned persons at a private audience More on this painting

In the 950s, Olga traveled to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, to visit Emperor Constantine VII. Once in Constantinople, Olga converted to Christianity with the assistance of the Emperor and the Patriarch.

Sergei Kirillov
The Baptism of Grand Princess St Olga, c. 1993
Oil on canvas
140x100
One of the triptych Holy Rus

Sergei Alekseevich Kirillov (1960 in Moscow, Soviet Union) is a leading modern Russian artist, who is focusing on historical paintings.

In 1984 he graduated from The Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, from the studio of Professor Dmitry Konstantinovich Mochalsky. His graduate work was depicting Peter the Great. His paintings are now regularly published in history classroom books, monographs of The History of Russia, and historical belletristic literature. Since 1987, 24 exhibitions of his paintings have been held in Moscow and other cities in Russia. More on Sergei Kirillov

Olga received the Patriarch's blessing for her journey home, and that once she arrived, she unsuccessfully attempted to convert her son to Christianity. However, her son agreed not to persecute those in his kingdom who did convert.

She was the first ruler of the Kievan Rus’ to adopt Christianity and Olga’s efforts to covert the rest of her people earned her the title Isap√≥stolos: “Equal to the Apostles.” Olga died from illness in 969. 






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