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Menshikov in Berezovo - Vasily Surikov. 169 x 204 cm
This is one of the most famous and popular paintings by the master of multi-figured, complex compositions. It reflects the fate of the favorite Peter I, who after the death of his great patron did not cope with the desire to intervene in state affairs and with his own greed. As a result of court intrigues, the brilliant courtier, a native of the lower classes, who managed to rise to the very top, was overthrown from it, and ended up in exile with his family in the Russian North.
The picture shows the usual day of a family that was popular, fashionable and incredibly rich yesterday. On the way to exile, Menshikov’s wife died, so he is gloomy and immersed in his difficult and difficult thoughts. He seems to be trying to realize how it happened that he, a famous court intriguer, found himself controversial, entangled in the snares of a cunning and treacherous court policy.
Near his father are three children. Fate is also not merciful to them. The eldest daughter Maria - pale, confused, wrapped in black - the former bride of Emperor Peter II, who at once lost everything - wealth, high position and her brilliant future for the Russian Empress. The black color of Mary's robes is like a prophecy of her sad fate. Not six months will pass before she dies from smallpox before she reaches the age of eighteen. Less than a month after it, Menshikov himself will die.
In the background, the contemplation of the candle in front of him is the son of the courtier, Alexander. He will be lucky much more, he will survive in exile and become an general-general, but his life will not be too long - he will die at the age of 50.
A bright color spot, a ray of light in this gloomy and wretched hut - this is the youngest daughter of Menshikov, Alexander. She will survive the death of her mother, sister and father, remain alive in exile and even return to court. There she will make such a brilliant career that was only available to a woman in those days. Alexander, by the will of Empress Anna Ioannovna, will become the wife of Gustav Biron, a brother of the very Biron, who actually ruled Russia under Anna Ioannovna. But it was as if a curse lay on her - Alexandra dies at 23 at birth with her newborn.
But so far all these events are yet to come and only God knows about them. Alexandra, young and beautiful, in a modest dress by the court, but rich in exile, and a warm murderer, reads a book in the dim northern light, barely breaking through the dim and small window of the hut. She alone seems to be a bright spot in this gloomy scene of humility and gloomy despair.
The life of the Menshikovs in exile can hardly be called beggarly - there is a warm hide on the floor, a rich tablecloth on the table, there are icons and candles, they are warmly dressed and shod. But these people are torn from their natural habitat. These young creatures have the very place at the court balls, where they only recently shone, and not in the wretched village hut, without occupation, and most importantly - without hope for the future.
The most expressively depicted is the face of Alexander Danilovich himself. Certainly a talented person, inventive and intelligent, he could not cope with his excessive ambitions and ambition, having acquired many open enemies and secret ill-wishers. In the picture, he is clearly burdened by thoughts about how he, a loving husband and father, unwittingly ruined his own family with his own hands. There is nothing worse for a father than realizing his fateful role in the fate of his children.
The picture makes you think not only about historical Russian realities, but also about the fate of an individual who fell into the hard wheels of history. According to reviews by numerous contemporaries of Surikov, as well as criticism of Stasov, this canvas is one of the best that came out from under his brush.