Painting “Vision to the youth Bartholomew” by Mikhail Nesterov

Mikhail Nesterov. Painting Vision to the youth Bartholomew, 1889-1890
Mikhail Nesterov. Painting Vision to the youth Bartholomew, 1889-1890

Painting “Vision to the youth Bartholomew” by Mikhail Nesterov – a fateful meeting against the background of a peaceful nature

“Vision to the youth Bartholomew” is one of the most recognizable paintings by Mikhail Nesterov. The plot of the work is an episode from the life of the Orthodox saint Sergius of Radonezh. As a child, he, who then still bore the name Bartholomew, was looking for his escaped herd of horses in the forest. Here the boy met an angel in the guise of an old man praying.

The stranger inquired about the shepherd’s cherished desire and received the answer that he would like to comprehend the letter, which was so difficult for him. The monk blessed Bartholomew, gave a particle of prosphora. It was this fateful meeting that Mikhail Nesterov captured on canvas. The boy, humbly folded his hands, diligently prays with the elder. The eyes of Bartholomew express the whole purity of a child’s soul, they look at the monk seriously, with trepidation.

The child seems to be aware of his future destiny. The old man’s face is hidden by a hood, but his appearance exudes love and tenderness towards the boy. The action takes place against the backdrop of a serene Central Russian landscape. It is in harmony with the appearance and mood of the characters. Near Bartholomew, thin-stemmed pine and birch trees are located as symbols of youth and defenselessness. The monk appears near an old oak tree: a mighty tree personifies wisdom and greatness.

Mikhail Nesterov. Unfinished version of the painting Vision to the youth Bartholomew, 1889
Mikhail Nesterov. Unfinished version of the painting Vision to the youth Bartholomew, 1889

Mikhail Nesterov is a significant figure in Russian and Soviet fine arts.

The master, who worked in the 19th-20th centuries, is known for his poetic landscapes, brilliant portraits, and everyday scenes. Religious themes also occupy an important place in his work.

He dedicated a series of paintings to Sergius of Radonezh, among them “Vision to the youth Bartholomew” was the first and most powerful work. Mikhail Vasilyevich chose the image of this saint for a reason: it was he who was for the artist an example of high morality and pure ascetic life. In the face of St. Sergius, Nesterov sought consolation, having lost his beloved wife Maria, who died in childbirth.

Description of the picture

It is interesting that initially the master conceived the vertical composition of the picture, emphasized the figures of the characters. But later the importance of the landscape grew, which became a wonderful decoration for the exciting meeting of the characters. For a long time, the painter was looking for a model to paint the image of a youth, until he accidentally met a consumptive girl. The painful face of the child struck Nesterov with an unusual, as if unearthly look.

Nature is also depicted from nature: the canvas depicts the landscape of the village of Abramtsevo near Moscow. The artist painstakingly wrote out every detail of the work, carefully looking for the necessary angles, as evidenced by the surviving sketches. The masterpiece, kept in the Tretyakov Gallery, is the second version of the religious plot. While working on the first piece, Nesterov, being sick with the flu, stumbled, fell on the painting and damaged it. However, he managed to paint only the upper part of the landscape, and the rest was marked with coal. The master resumed work on a new canvas, and the first one is now in the Bashkir State Art Museum, which bears the name of the painter.

The painting “Vision to the youth Bartholomew” by Mikhail Nesterov became an exhibit of the Tenth Exhibition of the Itinerants. She made an ambiguous impression on the audience: if some admired the work, others brought down a flurry of criticism on her. Until the end of his life, the author himself considered the work to be his best creation.

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