One of the most famous paintings Viktor Vasnetsov and all Russian painting is called famous "Heroes", which became one of the last acquisitions of Pavel Tretyakov for his gallery. Everyone knows that the picture depicts Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich, but in fact, not only historical and folklore characters were prototypes.
Viktor Vasnetsov has been working on The Bogatyrs for about 30 years. The first sketches are dated 1871, the composition was conceived in Paris in 1876, and the painting was completed only in 1898. This canvas became central to the artist's personal exhibition in the same year. Vasnetsov admitted: “I worked on the Heroes, maybe not always with the proper intensity, but they were always relentlessly in front of me, my heart was always drawn to them and my hand reached out! They were my creative duty, an obligation to my native people."
Folklore motifs were very popular in the work of Itinerant artists, and for Viktor Vasnetsov this topic became one of the main ones. In the center of the composition "Bogatyrs" (the name "Three Heroes" is erroneous, although the people call this picture that way) are epic heroes. The heroic theme attracted the artist all his life. This is evidenced by the paintings "Bayan" (1910), "Heroic Skok" (1914), "Combat of Peresvet with Chelubey" (1914), "Fight of Dobrynya Nikitich with the seven-headed Serpent Gorynych" (1918) and others.
The epic heroes Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich became the historical prototypes of the heroes of the picture. It is noteworthy that Ilya Muromets is not only a fabulous, but also a very real character. It was a warrior named Chobotok, who was probably born in 1188 in Murom. After being seriously wounded in battle, he "distributed the wealth he had acquired to decorate churches" and took monastic vows, adopting a new name - Ilya. In 1643 the Russian Orthodox Church canonized him under the name of the Monk Ilya of Murom. His relics are kept in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.
In 1988, scientists conducted a study of the remains of Ilya Muromets, during which they established that he was indeed bedridden until the age of 30 due to a spinal disease, and that he died from a blow to the heart with a spear. At the end of the twentieth century. managed to reconstruct his appearance: scientists claim that he was a large man with developed muscles, about 182 cm tall. At the time of the creation of the picture, Vasnetsov did not know these facts, but depicted the hero as he imagined him: dumpy, majestic and calm.
The historical prototype of Dobrynya Nikitich is more difficult to determine: several characters with that name are mentioned in the epics. Apparently, he was a representative of the princely family. But more is known about Alyosha Popovich, however, in the annals he is mentioned under the name of Alexander Popovich. It was a Rostov boyar who defeated the enemy not so much by force as by skill and ingenuity. He proved himself as a fearless warrior in several significant battles. But later, under the influence of the nickname Popovich (the son of a priest), popular rumor attributed to the hero completely different traits - cunning, deceit and love.
All three heroes lived at different times, and could only meet in Vasnetsov's painting. When Ilya Muromets was the way the artist portrayed him, Dobrynya was supposed to be an old man, and Alyosha Popovich was a boy.
However, in addition to epic heroes, Vasnetsov's characters also had quite real prototypes, which he found among his contemporaries. They say that the prototype of Ilya Muromets was the peasant of the Vladimir province Ivan Petrov, as well as a cabman whom the artist met in Moscow and persuaded to pose: “I am walking along the embankment near the Crimean bridge,” V. Vasnetsov later said, “and I see: a hefty fellow is standing near the regiment, exactly like the spitting image of my Ilya."
In the appearance of Dobrynya, some researchers see the features of Vasnetsov himself. It is believed that the face of Dobrynya has become a collective type of the Vasnetsov family - not only of the artist, but also of his grandfather and father. But for Alyosha Popovich, the youngest son of the owner of Savva Mamontov, Andrei, posed for the artist in the Abramtsevo estate. Then he was only 13 years old, and after 8 years the young man fell ill and died suddenly. Vasnetsov was completing his image already from memory.
Fairy-tale characters in the artist's paintings often acquired the outward features of his contemporaries: why "Alyonushka" Vasnetsov was originally called "fool", or the Fantastic and the real in the famous picture