The painting of Mykhail Vrubel

The painting of Mykhail Vrubel

In 1884, M. Vrubel came to St. Cyril’s Church from St. Petersburg and made several wall compositions and four icons for the iconostasis. Created by Vrubel in the Cyril’s realm, it is a precious necklace of picturesque pearls born under the patronage of heavenly, angelic forces.

The first monumental work of the artist in St. Cyril’s Church is an image of the Archangel Gabriel on the western pylon of the northern pillar of the triumphal arch.

After the Archangel Gabriel, Vrubel was commissioned to recreate the compositions on the northern and southern walls: “The Lord’s Entrance to Jerusalem” and “The Assumption of the Mother of God”, which is preserved in fragments in a fresco of the twelfth century. The master’s assistant in this work was the artist F.Zozulin.


On the vault of the central part of the choirs of St. Cyril’s Church, M. Vrubel created a huge composition, that became legendary, in just three months and without preparatory sketches. “The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles”, or “Pentecost”, or “Trinity” is one of the best works of M. Vrubel in St. Cyril’s Church.


The composition ends with the image of the Tsar-Cosmos, whose giant figure is barely fit in the space allotted to him.

Under the composition “The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles”, on the pylon of the pillar, the prophet Moses is depicted. Vrubel owns the image of the head for this figure, which is very reminiscent of the famous Vrubel’s “Demon”. On the opposite west wall of the choirs, between the windows, Vrubel also painted a head for the figure of the prophet Solomon, whose image is given distinct ethnic features.

On the lunette, which is located at the entrance to the prince’s prayer room, is a bust of the so-called blue-eyed Jesus Christ, which also belongs to Vrubel’s brush.

On the hemispherical surface of the eastern wall of the prince’s prayer room – “Angels with labarums”. Dynamic figures seem to be in flight, striking with extraordinary expression.

In the narthex of St. Cyril’s Church, in one of the now empty burial niches, there is a work that Vrubel himself considered the best in the last years of his life. This is the famous “Pieta”, the last monumental composition performed by Vrubel in St. Cyril’s Church.

This work on sacred theme is so emotionally impressive, it creates such a special spiritual state of reverence that it can be considered a Christian relic.

Performing the composition in the best traditions of ancient Rus’ painting, Vrubel still brings to work his vision, his understanding of the moment, using the gift of a wonderful colorist: ocher-olive color dominant of the composition contrasts with the dark blue background of the stormy sky – a harbinger and witness of a tragic event.

Vrubel also made numerous details in the temple, made some minor additions. He finished the monumental paintings seven months later, after which, the head of restoration and painting works in the church, A. Prakhov sent him to Italy. A trip to Venice was necessary to get acquainted with the works of the masters of the Italian Renaissance and perform icon-painting images there – Christ, the Virgin, Saints Cyril and Athanasius of Alexandria – to decorate these icons with a new marble iconostasis.

Vrubel’s picturesque masterpiece is the icon of the Mother of God with the Baby. Our Lady sits on a white marble throne, extremely consonant with the marble iconostasis. Her purple, presumably velvet dress sparkles with pearls adorning the maphoria and red boots. Richly embroidered with pearl patterns, the delicate golden pillow under the Mother of God gives majesty to the image created by Vrubel.

The author combines the strict harmony of lines and colors with contrasting colors, enhancing the emotionality of the face of the Virgin.

There is great tension in the face of the Mother, in the sad prophetic gaze bordering on exaltation, in the lips burnt from mental suffering – the seal of a great tragedy.

The works of M. Vrubel in St. Cyril’s Church made a great impression on the poetess A. Akhmatova. She recalled: “Vrubel of Kyiv. The Virgin with mad eyes in St. Cyril’s Church. Days filled with such harmony, which, after leaving, never came back to me. ”

Today we admire the works of Vrubel, trying to comprehend their distant mysterious world. However, this world is close by, it opens to us on the territory of the Cyril’s Sacrum and a thin thread stretches to the understanding of the genius of the master, encrypted in the symbols and images of his Cyril’s works.