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The Baptism of Russia

April 27th, 2009 | posted by Susan Lapene

My first passion is exquisite gem stones.  My second is art, especially when it has a great story attached to it.  I absolutely love, “The Baptism of Russia” by Navozov.  It is one of the most popular paintings at our shows.  We talk more about this painting than any others.

Baptism of Russia

It depicts a pinnacle point in Russia’s history and possibly our history.  It is also the story of the incredible power of a woman.  It takes place in the year 988AD.  At that time, women were pretty much lower than dirt, but not THIS woman.

The two main characters are Russian Grand Prince Vladimir and his new bride, Byzantine Princess Anna.  In the painting, they are the two figures to the right of the priest.  

They are married in Kherson; her town.   The very day they were married, Anna immediately “saw” to the baptism of Vladimir.  I would say probably just before the honeymoon.  She was appalled by Vladimir’s religious affiliation which was Islam, so she had him convert to her religion, Christian Orthodoxy. 

Shortly thereafter, they travel back to his town, Kiev and in tow she has priests, a ton of religious text books and icons.  Once there, in no time at all, Anna started her work.  The first to go down was the Royal Court and then the household servants.  They were all immediately baptized, Christian Orthodoxy.  Then she did her best work of all.  She convinced Vladimir to demand the baptism of every person in the entire country of Russia!  And they obeyed!  All I can say is never, never, never underestimate the power of a woman.

This is the kind of painting that each time you look at it, you will notice something different.  It is filled to the brim with subtleties.  Look at the men in the forefront.  You know that they are cold.  Some are slightly blue.  Their bodies are pasty white.  That is skin that has never seen daylight but their necks and faces are darker from working outdoors.  Notice the women in the background separated from the men, a practice of Islam, waiting for their turn.  Some of each group holding babies.  Then notice the throngs of people in line to the left of the priest which are in Islamic dress and then the multitude of people waiting behind the priest to the right.  The entire country obeying the wishes of a single woman!

Every time I look at this painting I wonder where we would be today without Anna.

By the way, there is one prerequisite in owning this painting.  You must be a good story teller.  You could have a multitude of paintings in your home and your guests will ask about this one.