A wonderful painting that everyone should know

No, I’m not talking about Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but Viktor Vasnetsov’s Three Heroes, also called Three Bogatyrs and Три Богатыря in Russian.

It took Viktor Vasnetsov 30 years to paint this masterpiece which was completed in 1898. This painting measures 295.3 X 446 centimeters or almost 3 meters by 4 and a half meters.

This painting is a folkloric masterpiece representing three epic heroes of Russia: They are very well known to all Russians.

Dobrynya Nikititch, Ilya Myromets and Alyosha Popovich stand from left to right.

Viktor Vasnetsov -Three Bogatyrs ( Три Богатыря )
Viktor_Vasnetsov_- Bogatyrs -_Google_Art_Project

Creation of the painting “The Three Bogatyrs”

Description of the painting

What does this painting represent?

Creation of the painting “The Three Bogatyrs”

VM Vasnetsov The first sketch of the painting “Bogatyrs”, 1871-1874
VM Vasnetsov The first sketch of the painting “Bogatyrs”, 1871-1874.

The first sketch of this oil painting has two dates: “75” and “1989 March 10”. They are explained by the fact that this sketch was made in Paris, in Polenov’s studio, shortly after Viktor Vasnetsov’s arrival in Paris. Viktor wanted to give him this sketch but Polenov refused to take it before Vasnetsov painted a big painting.

One of the prototypes of Ilya Muromets was the peasant from the province of Vladimir; Ivan Petrov, whom he drew in 1883. But there will also be the blacksmith from Abramtsevo, and a truck driver he met in Moscow.

Researchers of Vasnetsov’s work list numerous oil sketches created by the artist while working on the Three Bogatyrs

Bogatyrs 1876
Bogatyrs 1876

The first made in 1876 is called Bogatyrs and was made in the house-museum of VD Polenov.

The next is the painting called Abramtsevo made in 1879

Then the one called “Small forests. Akhtyrka” painted in 1880.

Then come: “Sitter in chain mail” 1880, “horses” 1881, “Landscape of Akhtyrka” 1882, “Landscape of a wooded mound” 1881, “Peasant from the province of Vladimir Ivan Petrov” 1883.

Subsequently “Tête de paysan” 1898, “Cotte de mail” 1898, “Black horse” and “Bay horse” will complete this list.

Description of the painting

Peasant from the province of Vladimir 1883
Peasant from the province of Vladimir 1883

In the middle, Ilya Muromets gazes into the distance, shading his eyes with his hand. He is the most famous and oldest hero. He is physically more powerful than his companions. He has simple mittens, and old boots which indicate that he does not earn much money. Ilya Muromets is well armed, he has a powerful spear, a shield, a heavy club, and a large quiver with arrows. It shows us its strength because it would be impossible to wear it all effortlessly otherwise.

His black horse is a magnificent animal that has a metal harness, showing us its power.

Ilya is comfortable and relaxed on horseback, he does not use his stirrups, but it is known that in case of danger he will not hesitate to rush into a fight to the death

To Ilya’s right is a hero who may be a bit younger. His name is Dobrynya Nikitich and he displays an air of wealth. He has an expensive outfit, a caftan embroidered with gold, beautiful new boots. His helmet is expensive and fitted with a protective net, his chain, his Orthodox cross and the scabbard with the hilt of the sword are decorated with gold. His magnificent red shield is adorned with sparkling rivets. He keeps his sword half drawn, he won’t waste a second if he needs to defend his homeland

His white horse seems ready to fly into battle at the slightest sign of danger.

Alyosha Popovich who is the adopted son of an ordinary Rostov priest stands to the left of Ilya. He is the youngest and most romantic of the three heroic Russian warriors. He doesn’t have that physical power yet, but you can see he’s brave, cunning, and resourceful. He keeps his bow ready for battle. He owns expensive clothes and a harp with which he can play in their rare moments of rest. Despite his youth, Alyosha is known to have an unyielding will and devotion to his native land.

The nature surrounding them is light in color. Young spruce shoots can be seen representing continuity. Old forests leave and grow back. Generations change but the idea of ​​strength and unity of the Russian spirit remains unchanged.

The dark tones of the sky represent the constant threat to Russia

What does this painting represent?

Chainmail Sitter
Chainmail Sitter

The heroes are depicted using brown and gray colors which emphasize their courage and confidence in victory.

Ilya Muromets and his horse constitute a kind of monument, symbolizing the unity of the people who cannot be broken by difficulties and who are ready to fight for Russia. But it also symbolizes solidity, prudence, and slowness. He is the bearer of popular wisdom, experience and traditions.

Nikititch appears as a courageous defender of the fatherland. He is full of energy and ready for battle.

Alyosha embodies a brave fighter and a poet sensitive to any manifestation of beauty

Vasnetsov Viktor Mikhailovich Landscape. Small forests. 
Period of creation: Early 1880s
Vasnetsov Viktor Mikhailovich Landscape. Small forests. 
Period of creation: Early 1880s

Russian nature is depicted in green tones, with yellow and brown shades. The sky is covered with clouds indicating imminent danger

The heroes are perceived as a mythical personification of the creative forces of the Russian land

Abramtsevo 1879
Abramtsevo 1879

Light and bright shades stand out against a dark background, which emphasizes the victory of Russian heroes over the enemies they expect

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An essay based on the painting Three heroes: description and characteristics

Description of the work “Three heroes”

The harmony of the fairy tale was on the canvas of V. Vasnetsov “Heroes”

Composition based on Vasnetsov’s painting Three Heroes; description, who is depicted, characteristics of the three heroes

Bogatyrs (peinture de Vasnetsov)

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