Museums and Art

"The Apotheosis of War", Vereshchagin Vasily Vasilyevich - description of the painting


The apotheosis of war - Vereshchagin Vasily Vasilievich. 127 x 197 cm

This canvas can be considered the most striking and expressive exposer of the horrors of war. Although it was created under the influence of the primitive cruelty of the eastern conquerors, it does not have a narrow focus - it is addressed to everyone who started and starts a war. No wonder the author himself left an inscription on the canvas frame that the painting is dedicated to the conquerors of the past, present and future.

According to legend, behind the troops of Timur remained piles of corpses and skulls, folded into a pyramid. Even in the days when the artist lived, the barbarian tradition was preserved - the eastern rulers regarded the severed parts of the enemy’s body as war trophies. The artist took this habit as a symbol. The result was a picture, unique in its expressive power, that has not lost its relevance in our time.

By the force of influence on the mind of the beholder contained in this canvas, it can be compared with the best works of Dali, it is so saturated with the very spirit of symbolism. But, unlike Dali, her symbolism is not harmless and devoid of abstractness. All that is depicted on the canvas are symbols of one specific, ruthless and inevitable disaster - war.

Depriving the picture of characteristic temporary, historical clues, the artist made it a reflection of the result of any military operations, regardless of when and where they could occur. The war produced such an effect a thousand years ago, in our days, and it can remain so in the future. The canvas simply shouts about it: "People, look what you do !?".

The huge expressive power of the canvas is achieved by minimal artistic means. Before us is a vast panorama, representing a deserted, scorched area with individual surviving skeletons of burned, charred trees. There is no life in it, there is not a drop of green - only dead yellow sand and black dry trees. The only sign of life here is a flock of black ravens, symbols of death. They are everywhere on the canvas - they fly in the sky, sit on trees, celebrate a feast on the fallen.

In the distance you can see the ruined city, also depicted with yellow "dry" colors. It is empty and abandoned, there are no residents left in it, in general there is nothing alive. The whole picture of mass devastation is illuminated by a bright ruthless sun under a cold, lifeless and indifferent sky.

In the foreground of the canvas is a huge mountain of human skulls, folded into a pyramid. Ravens are sitting on it, and many traces of strikes by sabers and bullets indicate that we have before us defenders and civilians of the city. This is what war brought with it - death, destruction, and complete devastation. The land, which was once bright and flourishing, full of life and joy, turned into a terrible place, where only scavengers remained.

The picture does not indicate either a specific place of action, or a time period, or the one who committed all these atrocities. Although initially the picture was conceived as historical, reflecting the results of the campaigns of Tamerlane, who was famous for his cruelty and special addiction to chopping off heads, the idea outgrew itself. The canvas became a brilliant exposer of all wars. Wherever they are fought, no matter what people fight for, the outcome of the wars is always the same - mass senseless victims destroyed to the foundations of the city, fertile lands turned into barren deserts, inhabited only by crows and creeping reptiles.

The artist, who had participated in hostilities all his life and gave his life for the tsar and the Fatherland, like no one else knew the essence of the war, saw its results with his own eyes. He managed to create a picture unique in expressiveness and symbolism - a vivid denunciation of the ruthlessness of war.


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