Discover the painting “Troika” by Vasily Perov

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“Troika”, which is Perov ‘s largest genre painting and probably one of the most emotional became one of the artist’s most famous and dramatic paintings. It is an oil on canvas of 123,5 × 167,5 cm which was painted in 1866. This outstanding work is presently in Moscow at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

“Troika (Тройка)” also called (“Apprentices Carrying Water”) touches on an important social issue which is the problem of child labor during a difficult period for Russia. After the abolition of serfdom the situation did not immediately improve, and people lived in poverty. Inequality was also important. Vasily Perov (Василий Перов) was awarded the title of academician of painting for this work. 

"Troika" by Vasily Perov

“Troika” by Vasily Perov 1866

In the initial sketches for this painting, as conceived by the author, children’s faces were supposed to be not childishly but emaciated and extremely painful to look at. Later the artist abandoned his original idea and their faces became pretty and spiritualized, but with traces of complete hopelessness.

"Troika" sketch 1865 by Vasily Perov

“Troika” sketch 1865 by Vasily Perov

Perov looked for a suitable hero for a long time, most of the work had already been painted but he could not find the central figure of the work. Fortunately, he met a peasant woman with her son on the street and managed to persuade the woman to allow her to paint a portrait of her son, The boy called Vasya was the last hope and joy of the widow who had buried her other children. Three years later, the poor woman came to the artist, and he hardly recognized Vasya’s mother. 

She said that her son fell ill and died of smallpox, and asked to buy the painting depicting her son from Perov. 

The artist explained that the painting had long been sold but he took the poor woman to the gallery, where she fell on her knees in front of the painting and began to pray. Seeing this scene, Perov was so touched that he decided to paint a portrait of her son for the woman.

A year later, the woman received a portrait of her son in a gilded frame, and a few months later Perov received a response letter with words of sincere gratitude.

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Description of the painting

Vasily Perov used gloomy gray-brown tones. The only bright spot in the picture is the blue-violet skirt of the girl. The tones convey the tragedy of the scene, while the atmosphere is aggravated by the gloomy deserted street of the city.

"Troika" part birds by Vasily Perov

“Troika” part birds by Vasily Perov

The picture depicts an early morning which can be seen with the flock of birds rushing from the city to the fields. It’s still dark, just getting light and there is a very cold, blizzard.

"Troika" part barrel by Vasily Perov

“Troika” part barrel by Vasily Perov

We can see the slope of Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, and the walls of the Mother of God-Rozhdestvensky Convent which became the background of the picture.

In the center there is three three exhausted children, who as if in a team, are pulling a sleigh loaded with a huge, heavy, wooden barrel. It is filled to the top with water, and covered with some kind of sackcloth. The pouring water freezes with icicles on the surface of the barrel, which once again makes it clear how cold it must be. 

Next to the sleigh lies a wooden bucket looking very heavy, and with which the children probably drew water from an ice hole. Everything shows that the barrel is very heavy, each step is taken with great difficulty.

"Troika" part children by Vasily Perov

“Troika” part children by Vasily Perov

 An icy wind blows in the face of the three children who are dressed in very modest, even poor clothes. They wear old caftans and boots. They have caps on their heads which are most likely intended for autumn and not for winter. They are very small, the oldest of them is probably only 12, 13 years old. He is the leader of the group, it is clear that he takes on the main load of the girl who is about 10 and pulls with all her might. The boy on the left is the youngest, no more than 8 or 9 years old, but he pulls the strap as hard as he can. Such work is not at all for such young children and their faces are full of suffering, and hopelessness.

"Troika" part man by Vasily Perov

“Troika” part man by Vasily Perov

Behind the barrel we see a thin built adult helping them to carry the burden. He is also dressed modestly. It can be seen that his everyday life is no less difficult.

"Troika" part dog by Vasily Perov

“Troika” part dog by Vasily Perov

The wagon is accompanied by a dog running on the right in front of the children. 

I hope you enjoyed this painting as much as I did.

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