6/30/11

Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, Flying Carpet (Ковeр-самолeт)


Нижегородский государственный художественный музей / The Art Museum of Nizhniy Novgorod

Date: 1880
Technique: Oil on canvas, 165 x 297 сm

In Russian folk tales, Baba Yaga can supply Ivan the Fool or Ivan Tsarevich with a flying carpet or some other magical gifts (e.g., a ball that rolls in front of the hero showing him the way or a towel that can turn into bridge). Such gifts help the hero to find his way "beyond thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-ten kingdom".

In 1880, the rich industrialist Savva Mamontov commissioned Viktor Vasnetsov to illustrate a folk talk about Ivan and the Firebird. The painting represents Ivan returning home after capturing the Firebird, which he keeps in a cage. Ivan is riding the flying carpet in the early morning mist. This work was Vasnetsov's first attempt at illustrating Russian folk tales and inaugurated a famous series of paintings on the themes drawn from Russian folklore. When exhibited at the 8th exhibition of the Peredvizhniki, the painting was panned by leading critics as a commercially motivated betrayal of realism and return to the aesthetics of Romanticism. On the other hand, it was enthusiastically received by the Slavophile artists from the Abramtsevo art colony.

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