Saturday, August 02, 2008

Repin's Way

The above painting, which depicts the 14-year old Pushkin reciting one of his poems before the great Derzhavin, is curious for something else other than its centre of attention. If you look on the left hand side, you will note the priest sitting right next to the visibly impressed Derzhavin. He is, in a rather ludicrous way, strangely gazing at the viewer - a slight, enigmatically uncomfortable, almost embarrassed smile visible on his face. It definitely lacks the general amazement seen in the rest of the crowd, and to me it expresses a certain tedium hidden within the holy man's seemingly unimpressed heart. It almost seems a type of mockery on great, old Repin's part, as the discrepancy between the priest's rather bored face and the audience's utter rapture, effectively showers young Pushkin with self-assured aplomb. Maybe Repin was in elevated spirits when he was painting this picture, and so decided to humour himself by subtly inserting this figure of the priest so as to balance things out on Pushkin's exalted stance?
A highly-original artistic prank, perhaps? If that is the case, I shall salute Repin for a sense of humour as sophisticated as his brush! Maybe Pushkin ought to challenge him to a duel as well?
Why not, they're both equal now.