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Ссылка на изображение: http://gallery.facets.ru/pic.php?id=723&size=3
<...> «Святой Меркурий Смоленский» была вдохновлена легендой, которая рассказывает о святом, принявшем во сне приказ идти и бороться с татарской ордой, вернувшегося со своей головой, отсечённой неизвестным воином. На картине изображён святой, возвращающийся в город с головой в руках. <...>
Защитник родного города, Меркурий Смоленский, был убит в битве при его защите, но Божья Матерь помогла ему, и он продолжал сражаться (описание утеряно и пересказано составителем).
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, UNITED STATES
Estimate 500,000 — 700,000 USD
ST. MERCURIUS OF SMOLENSK
signed with artist's monogram and dated 1919 (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 by 36 in.
91.5 by 91.5 cm
B.H. Kean, New York
Sale: Sotheby's London, December 15, 1993, lot 29, illustrated
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
According to Russian Orthodox tradition, St. Mercurius was a courageous soldier and holy martyr. Born a Slav, probably in Moravia, he traveled to Rus' in search of a chaster and more saintly life, and he entered into the army of the Prince of Smolensk. In 1239 he was called upon to defend the city against seemingly inevitable defeat by the army of Mongol conqueror Batu. As the enemy approached, the local sexton prayed before the icon of the Mother of God of Smolensk, and her voice miraculously spoke to him: "Go to my servant Mercurius and tell him I am calling him." Soon Mercurius arrived in full armor, and at once the most-holy Virgin, sitting on a golden throne with child and surrounded by angels, appeared to him in a vision: "My servant Mercurius, I have called you here from the land of the Romans to protect this church from the enemy..."
Mercurius was told that after driving away the Tatar horde he would sacrifice himself to atone for their sins. That very night he set off to the Mongol camp at Dolgomost', where he battled with the army leader, a giant of colossal strength. Striking that man dead, Mercurius entered into heroic hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, and the apparition of a radiant woman appeared at his side, striking fear in the hearts of all who opposed him; he slew innumerable warriors and turned away the horde almost single-handedly. As prophesied, he was slain in battle and beheaded by the son of the Tatar army leader.
St. Mercurius was buried in the Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk, and by 1509 he was considered the city's patron saint. His name day is recognized on November 24.
*19. ROERICH, NICHOLAS
St Mercurius of Smolensk, signed with a monogram and dated 1919.
Oil on canvas, 91.5 by 91.5 cm.
Provenance: Collection of B.H. Kean, New York.
Icons, Russian Pictures and Works of Art, Sotheby’s London, 15 December 1993, lot 29, illustrated.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Private collection, USA.
Literature: Nicholas Roerich, vol. 1, Samara, Agni Publishing House; Moscow, Fine Arts Academy Gallery; Zürich, Kunstberatung, 2008, p. 230, pl. 265, illustrated; p. 661, No. 265, listed with incorrect date 1918.
St Mercurius of Smolensk by Nicholas Roerich belongs to his large series of works dedicated to Russian saints. This series is a particularly important part of the artist’s oeuvre.
Roerich considered the First World War, which had engulfed Europe, as a global catastrophe. Empires fell, whole cities were laid waste and some of the most valued monuments of European history, repositories of the memory of many generations, were reduced to ashes. In that turbulent time, the artist turned to the history of the Tartar-Mongol invasions, the ruthless destructiveness of which reminded him of the contemporary events in Europe. Roerich created a series of works devoted to holy warriors and intercessors who defended Russia and the Christian faith at a time when all hope of rescue seemed vain. So from the fear and despair of The Doomed City (1914) and Glow (1914) Roerich moves on to hope and the expectation of salvation, as expressed in Prokopy the Righteous Diverts the Cloud of Stones from Veliky Ustyug (1914), Saint Nikolai of Mozhaisk (1916), Saint Mercurius of Smolensk (1918) and The Saints Boris and Gleb (1919).
Two versions of St Mercurius of Smolensk are known. The first, painted in 1918, from the collection of Dmitry Rubinstein, was reproduced in 1931 in a monograph devoted to the works of Roerich (A. Yaremenko, Nicholai Konstantinovich Roerich, His Life and Creations During the Past Forty Years, 1889–1929, New York, Central Book Trading Company, 1931, p. 13, pl. 60; p. 35, mentioned in the text). In this version, the protagonist is met as he enters the city by an angelic choir, which the artist places in the upper right section of the composition. It should be noted that Roerich had three major solo exhibitions in 1918–1920 in Stockholm, Helsinki and London. Many works from these exhibitions were sold to museums and private collections; and it is possible that this prompted him to replicate his most important paintings. In 1919 Roerich created a new version of St Mercurius of Smolensk, which – as was often the case with his replications – he did not enter into the list of original works.
Initially, the new version was conceived as an exact replica of the 1918 composition. Infrared photography reveals the preparatory drawing, in which the figures of angels at the top right and a palace with a chapel to the left of the gates are clearly visible. But as the work progressed, Roerich decided to do something different. He removed the sketched choir and clouds and painted a mural on the facade of the gates, which depicted two angels sounding trumpets in honour of the hero. Thus, the heavenly host was made less obvious, intended to be noticed only by a more perceptive viewer. This rearrangement led to a reworking of the whole composition. The architecture on the left side of the original picture, which teemed with detail, is replaced by a more laconic image of a fortress tower. Overall, while the atmosphere on the 1918 version was jubilant (the colourful city, billowing, foam-like clouds, and angels in azure raiment), the version of 1919 is executed in a more austere and restrained manner, which Roerich deemed more appropriate to the nature of the martyrdom of Mercurius, who paid with his life for the rescue of Smolensk.
However, structural changes to the composition and, more importantly, the degree to which Roerich reinterpreted the emotional content of the painting, allow to view the offered work is an authentic version that reveals new facets of the existing subject. St Mercurius of Smolensk is an outstanding work from Nikolai Roerich’s Sancta series, one of the most important components of his oeuvre, which is now almost entirely held in museum collections.
We are grateful to the expert Olga Glebova, an art historian, for providing additional catalogue information.