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Vasnetsov, Viktor Mikhaylovich
Heroes (Bogatyri)

1898
oil on canvas
295,3 х 446

Having revived the images of Old Russia's legendary defenders, mighty in their spiritual power, such as Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich, Vasnetsov attempted at the turn of the 20th century to bridge the heroic past of the Russian people and its great future. Concrete as the images might be, the heroes are seen as a mythical epitome of the creative power of the Russian land. Mighty figures on horseback rise like mountains or colossal trees. The hooves of the heroes's horses tread on fragile young growth of fir and pine trees: a metaphor for intergenerational continuity. By turning to a pictoral hyperbole, Vasnetsov imparts to his heroes true qualities of Russian nature. Ilya Muromets epitomizes solidity, wise deliberate ways and tapping of experience and traditions of the people. Proud fighting spirit and desire to defend the motherland are embodied in Dobrynya Nikitich. And the image of Alyosha Popovich reflects a poetical, contemplative streak of the Russian soul, sensitivity to all manifestations of beaut

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