The first half of the 19th century was a time when Russian art achieved great success in the portrayal of Saint Petersburg. At this time the capital of the Russian Empire continued to attract the attention of painters and graphic artists. The best of their works still maintain an undeniable artistic and documental value.
One such work is Grigory Chernetsov’s monumental canvas “Parade Celebrating the End of Military Action in the Kingdom of Poland on Tsaritsa Meadow in St Meadow”. Although this work was commissioned by the Tsar Nicholas 1st, the artist did not confine himself to illustrating “a host of infantry and horses”. In the foreground he depicted an enormous crowd of spectators – more than two hundred men and women who, in essence, represents a collective portrait of inhabitants of Saint Petersburg.
The most prominent artists, writers, musicians and actors – people famed for their talent, deeds and social rank – were portrayed here with documentary exactness.
In the dense crowd it is not easy to pick out the modest figure of Alexander Pushkin. He was not only a great poet but a founder of a new Russian culture, the centre of the spiritual life of the times. This found expression in the unparallel popularity he enjoyed among his contemporaries who talk about the enormous influence exerted over them by Pushkin’s poetry and by personal contacts with him. Recalling the 1830s Ivan Turgenev wrote: “At that time Pushkin was for me, as for many people of my age, something of a demigod. We really worshipped him”.