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For some reason, Vasnetsov’s painting “The Hero” or “The Knight at the Crossroads” always causes associations not with Ilya Muromets, but with Svyatogor, who is looking for where to put force. Probably because Ilya Muromets Vasnetsovskiy we all know too well "in person" from the picture "Three Heroes".
However, this is not Svyatogor, and none of the other famous epic heroes. In addition, we cannot see the faces of the hero. The painting began with a sketch of the 1870s - “The Knight on a Horse and in Chainmail”, it is known that at an earlier stage of the work Vasnetsov had his hero facing the spectator. But then, apparently, more important for the artist was the content of the inscription on the stone “in an open field” (again, on the earlier versions of the painting, on sketches, the road WAS, but the artist removed it on the final version.
Perhaps in order to emphasize the hopelessness of the knightly path: there is only one of the three “traditional” signatures on the stone - “you will go straight, you will never be alive!”. Fragments of skeletons, skulls scattered in the grass by the stone, confirm this impression. And if there comes a gloomy pre-sunset sky, ravens over the field, dramatic sensations increase. So, quite possibly, Vasnetsov drew exactly Svyatogor, whose path ended tragically.
It is interesting that although Vasnetsov worked on the painting for almost fifteen years (of course, while working on other canvases), anyone who saw the painting in the Tretyakov Gallery notes - “but the spear is not knightly, infantry!”. However, this can also be seen in high-quality reproduction: the spear has a “smudge”, its second end is also chained - it’s more convenient for a foot to stick it into the ground, reflecting the attack of the same horse knights. The rider is such a finish of the lower part of the pole is not only uncomfortable, but also can damage! So this is a work of Vasnetsov, a kind of unique not only gloomy, even hopelessness, uncharacteristic of Viktor Mikhailovich’s work, but also with this “spear of an infantryman in the hands of an equestrian knight”.
What is this, the rarest mistake of a genius, or Vasnetsov hints to us that the Russian knight, even having lost his horse (although he removed this inscription from the stone), is ready to fight with anyone on foot? After all, everyone else - and there are about a hundred of them! - Vasnetsov’s paintings, sketches, sketches with horse-drawn knights and heroes, spears are in order, as, for example, in the 1914 painting “Heroic Dap” or the magnificent spear of Ilya Muromets on the famous canvas “Three Heroes”.
Still Life Petrov Vodkin