Kramskoy – “Herodias”

Kramskoy’s painting Herodias (1884-1886) completes Kramskoy’s biblical trilogy. Like Laughter, the painting remained unfinished. Nevertheless, her pictorial qualities were highly appreciated by Repin, who advised Tretyakov to purchase Herodias from Kramskoy’s posthumous exhibition. The artist turned to one of the most dramatic stories in biblical history. But at the same time he chose not the culmination, but the finale of the bloody biblical drama. There is no blood and horror in Kramskoy’s painting, which he has always consistently avoided in his work.

Kramskoy was interested in the philosophical aspects of Old Testament history. “Herodias” developed the theme of “Laughter” – the physical victory of the inert, spiritless principle over the spirit and at the same time the moral defeat of the animal principle. The composition of the picture is based on the opposition of the heavy, massive, dense figure of the seated Herodias – the embodiment of unspiritualized matter, rough flesh, and the head of John the Baptist on a dish, striking in its beauty and spirituality. The dead are “more alive” than the living. This picture is another philosophical “treatise” of the artist on the theme “what is life?” Life is the life of the spirit for Kramskoy. This life is eternal, for it is not subject to corruption. Massive, “raw”, like a clay figure of Herodias, looks ugly next to the beautiful head of John the Baptist. Beauty for Kramskoy is primarily a spiritual and moral category.

Year of painting: 1884-1886.

Dimensions of the painting: 142 x 118 cm.

Material: canvas.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: religious painting.

Style: realism.

Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

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