Iliya Repin. Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581. (1885)
The press service of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Russia, reported on Saturday, May 26, of the vandal attack on Friday evening that damaged the painting of Ilya Repin (1844 – 1930) “Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on November 16, 1581”.
“As a result of the blows, the thick glass that protected the work from fluctuations in the temperature-humidity regime was broken,” the gallery’s officials said in a statement.
“The painting is badly damaged, the canvas is ripped in three places in the central part…. The falling glass also damaged the frame. […] Luckily, the most valuable images, those of the faces and hands of the tsar and prince were not damaged”.
37-year-old man from the town of Voronezh was arrested by police shortly after the incident. The suspect declared that he had acted the way he did because of the falsehood of the depiction of historical facts on the canvas — his words in my translation.
By preliminary estimation, the restoration of the painting might take a few years.
In 1885, upon its completion, the painting made a furor both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow. Everyone whose opinion counted, admitted to having an utterly depressing impression both during and after observing the painting. The ladies fainted and had hysterics. Children cried inconsolably. Repin’s masterpiece was deemed harmful and by the order of the sovereign was banned from being exhibited.
Pavel Tretyakov, businessman, patron of art, collector and philanthropist (who gave his name to the Tretyakov Gallery) acquired the painting. It took awhile but the wrath was changed to mercy and the permission to exhibit the canvas in the gallery was granted.
The recent assassination of the famous painting was not the first one. On January 16, 1913, “Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on November 16, 1581”, a rather well known icon painter, crying out “Enough blood!” lunged on the painting with a knife and in three strokes pierced the faces of Ivan and his son. The madman was restrained and confined to the mental institution. After learning about the incident, the curator of the Tretyakov Gallery, the kindest and beloved by all Yegor Khruslov, committed suicide by trowing himself under the speeding train.This is a newspaper article where the incident was first reported. Titled Damage to the painting by I. Repin carries the photographs of the damaged part of the painting, of the artist and the small inset is the photo of Abram Balashov, the vandal.
Interesting that the public opinion of the time was firmly on the side of the madman! Crazy Balashov was declared a victim of Repin’s “bloody, disturbing, violent” masterpiece. Such is the power of art.
Mysteriously and, well, terribly, Ivan the Terrible affected the fate of Repin’s models who selflessly set for his Ivan the Terrible. Repin was very particular and obsessively picky in choosing his models. Artist Grigory Myasoyedov and composer Pavel Blaramberg were asked to pose as Ivan the Terrible. Grigory Myasoedov once in anger nearly killed his little son, also named Ivan.
One of models for the head of the Prince was writer Vsevolod Garshin with his permanently teary eyes. A fragile and vulnerable person, the author of many wonderful fairy tales, he fell into a severe depression and during one of the anxiety attacks jumped from the fourth floor into the stairwell. He died in agony after five days, only 33 years old. Repin said about his choice of Garshin as his model, “I was struck by an utter doom written on Garshin’s face: he had the face of a man fated to perish before his time, which was excatly what I need for my prince.”
Soon thereafter, the terrible ailment struck the artist himself. Incongruously, his right arm withered away. Until the end of his life Repin had to paint and write with his left hand. The artist’s contemporaries recall that Repin could not even cross himself properly.
And, in conclusion, while hoping sincerely that Ivan the Terrible will be restored to its bloody, violent, mystical glory, here is the poster where Repin’s Ivan the Terrible behaves terribly toward the Russian Venus by Boris Kustodiyev.