Vasili Ivanovich Surikov (Russian, 1848-1916) The standard with the Mandylion kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin: a preparatory study from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)

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Lot 14
Vasili Ivanovich Surikov
(Russian, 1848-1916)
The standard with the Mandylion kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin: a preparatory study from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)

£ 60,000 - 70,000
US$ 83,000 - 97,000
Vasili Ivanovich Surikov (Russian, 1848-1916)
The standard with the Mandylion kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin: a preparatory study from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)
oil on canvas
42 x 35cm (16 9/16 x 13 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    From the family of the artist
    Acquired by the present collector at Sotheby's London, Russian paintings day sale, 1 December 2009, lot 338

    Literature
    V. Kemenev, Vasily Surikov, Leningrad, 1979, p. 137


    In Siberia, the people are different to those in Russia: free and brave.
    Maximilian Voloshin, Surikov, Leningrad, Artist of the RSFSR, 1985, p. 30

    In the history of Russian art, Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (1848 - 1916) could be considered the 'bard' of monumental historical paintings. His oeuvre depicts many of the important historical events that have shaped Russia: "The Morning of the Streltsy Execution", "Boyarynya Morozova", "The March of Suvorov across the Alps" and others. Surikov's historical paintings are invariably inspired by the conflict of cultures, eras and people.

    Surikov's technique and approach was remarkably thorough; he prepared for every painting with detailed research which included complete immersion in the historical environment of his subject. Each composition was accompanied by many sketches detailing the artist's process and this is notably the case for the famous painting "The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak" which was first shown at the 23rd exhibition of the Association of the Itinerants, and then acquired by Emperor Nicholas II and in 1897 transferred to the Russian Museum where it is currently on display.

    Surikov first conceived of the painting in 1889, but the first known sketch for the composition is dated to 1891. The artist did a lot of preparatory work, studying sources and travelling across Siberia as part of his research. His original conceptions of the colour and composition for the painting were altered many times and the painting was only completed in 1895. Maximilian Voloshin believed that the choice of subject was not accidental: "Those deeper and more acute elements of historical life which he did not manage to capture as a contemporary eyewitness, he brought in his blood, in his ancestral instinct, because the intoxicating and violent blood of the old Cossacks who came from the Don with Yermak to conquer Siberia flowed in him." (Maximilian Voloshin, Surikov, Leningrad, Artist of the RSFSR, 1985, p. 24).

    "The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak" depicts an important historical event. The subject of the picture is the decisive battle between Yermak's Cossack detachment and the forces of the Siberian Khan Kuchum in 1582. In Surikov's composition, the battle takes place in the waters of the Irtysh river, although some historical documents claim that it took place on the banks of the river. The painting constitutes an interesting and informative source about the past and was also hailed for the originality of its concept, as well as its aesthetic. Vsevolod Petrov believed that: "Surikov was able to combine in a single picture vast factual knowledge about the past of Siberia, having consolidated this knowledge with a deep poetic idea. It is typical that the banner of the Saviour, under which Yermak stands, has a glorious and centuries-old history: Surikov had seen it in the Armory. It was suggested that this banner stood on the Kulikovo field above the regiments of Dmitry Donskoy, and in 1552 it fluttered over the troops of Ivan the Terrible at the walls of Kazan." (G.S. Gor, V.N. Petrov, Surikov, Moscow, Young Guard, 1955).

    The offered lot, a sketch of a banner with the face of the Saviour is an important preparatory work for the painting "The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak". In spite of the fact that the artist altered the colour scheme of the sketch in the final picture, the work is an excellent example of the development of Surikov's creative thought and his artistic quest.

    There was no single national flag in pre-Petrine Russia, but the majority of battles were fought under red banners. Depictions of the banners that were flown in the battle of Svyatoslav the Great in the 10th century have been preserved in ancient manuscripts and it transpires that the banners of the great princes usually depicted saints, the faces of Christ and the Mother of God. The first known red banner with the Saviour accompanied the army of Dmitry Donskoy during the Battle of Kulikovo. The most tapering banner of the pre-Petrine era was the banner of Tsar Ivan the Terrible: its centre emblazoned with a large image of the Saviour Not-Made-by-Hands, depicted in the style of ancient Russian icons. This banner was made for the campaign to Kazan and was about three metres long and one-and-a-half metres high. The image of Christ was embroidered in gold and silver and two or three people bore it aloft. Following the capture of Kazan, a solemn prayer service was held by banner of the "Most Merciful Saviour" and a memorial church was built. This historical banner has been preserved to this day in the Kremlin Armoury. Despite the fact that the Kremlin also contains the blue banners of Yermak, for the sketch in the offered lot Surikov decided to use the better known banner of Ivan the Terrible, which was carried for half a century in the famous battles of the tsar and later in the Crimean campaigns and then in Peter the Great's Azov campaigns.

    The 'Saviour' presented here at auction can be viewed not only as a preparatory sketch for a monumental canvas but as a separate and discrete work by Surikov. The artist created an icon-picture, representing two hypostases: the 'Saviour Not-Made-by-Hands' and a 'Victory Banner', each acting as the most important element of the history of ancient Russia. Many of Surikov's contemporaries, artists such as Mikhail Nesterov, Mikhail Vrubel, and Viktor Vasnetsov, turned to religious painting while religious enquiry became a key component of the social interests of the time. The return to the Orthodox tradition in art and culture during the period when the offered lot was painted grants it an important part in the cultural history of Russia.
Contacts
Vasili Ivanovich Surikov (Russian, 1848-1916) The standard with the Mandylion kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin: a preparatory study from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)
Vasili Ivanovich Surikov (Russian, 1848-1916) The standard with the Mandylion kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin: a preparatory study from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)
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