Monday, 3 January 2011

Snow Fortress, Siberia

The Taking of A Snow Fortress painted by Vasily Surikov (1891)

Vasily Surikov (1848-1916) is famous for his historical paintings and portraits of ordinary Russian people. Always fascinating. This particular painting came after a sad period of his life. In 1887 his wife Elizabeth died and caused him to descend into a deep depression, he stopped painting, writing,
"the meaning of life has been destroyed; I am struggling with the present and do not doubt with the future also".   
He left Moscow with his children for his home town Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.  This place of childhood memories and his caring friends eventually rescued him from his debilitating depression.  In 1891 he decided to paint the Siberian Cossack game in which a horseman must jump over a snow wall, defended by young people with twigs, brooms, whips and rattles.  This cheerful painting is an exception to his usual oeuvre, possibly he saw the lifting of a dark cloud, which he thought would never end, and the beginning of life again.

The scene portrayed is centred around the annual week long pancake festival in February. A small town is constructed of ice and snow with many figures and buildings and the fortress of that town is attacked. Surikov's scene was not part of an actual festival but one constructed specially for him to paint by the residents of Krasnoyarsk. They built the fortress of ice and snow with towers and spires. He populated the painting with his friends, fortress builders and relations. The sleigh covered by a Tyumen carpet depicts his brother Alexander in a musquash cap. 

The card came with fortresses of a more sturdy kind
the definitives 10 Moscow Kremlin and 1.00 Astrakhan Kremlin together with the 2010 definitive of a hare. The stamp in the corners is the emblem of the Population Census issued on 14 October 2010, the day that the census started in Russia. There were 616,000 census takers employed across all of Russia.  Our census will take place on the 27 March this year, but as the UK could probably fit into a tiny corner of Russia there will only be 35,000 census takers needed.

Thank you Tatyana for this wonderful card.

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