The idea of creating a large-scale canvas dedicated to Christian morality came to Vasily Polenov after he saw the work of Alexander Ivanov “The Appearance of Christ to the People.” Having visited the sacred lands of Egypt, Palestine and Syria several times, having completed a large number of sketches and preparatory drawings, ordered a large canvas from Italy, he proceeded to paint a picture based on the plot of the biblical story.
The censorship did not accept the painting, considering it “harmful to the people”, but the situation was corrected by Emperor Alexander III, having acquired work for his museum. The idea expressed by Polenov on the canvas – Christian love for one’s neighbor and inner self-improvement did not find a response from the critics of that time, they distorted the meaning of the picture, calling it the Prodigal Wife, although the Bible is not talking about a harlot, but about a woman who has sinned.
The action of the picture takes place against the backdrop of ordinary city life: people walk the steps of the temple, communicate with each other, a man riding a donkey rides directly at the viewer. The main plot is inscribed in the measured life of the eastern city: a crowd of people was led to Christ, talking with the disciples, a woman convicted of sin and asked him: “What to do with her?” Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” This painting changed the centuries-old traditions of depicting Jesus Christ: here the artist brought to the fore his human nature, leaving the divine and mystical outside his work. Here Christ is shown not by God, he is shown by a wise and infinitely loving man.
Year of painting: 1888.
Painting dimensions: 325 x 611 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Genre: religious painting.
Gallery: State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.