The painting “Defense of Sevastopol” by Franz Roubaud

Franz Roubaud. Panorama Defense of Sevastopol, 1905
Franz Roubaud. Panorama Defense of Sevastopol, 1905

The Defense of Sevastopol is a painting by the founder of Russian panoramic art, Franz Alekseevich Roubaud. The plot of the epic is dedicated to the defensive battle that took place on the Malakhov Kurgan on June 6, 1855, and consists of episodes of this victorious day lined up in a certain sequence. Malakhov Kurgan was a key point in the defense of Sevastopol, which lasted eleven months. A 75,000-strong army held a strategically important height, besieged by a 173,000-strong Anglo-French group of troops.

The work reflects the events that unfolded after the first enemy attacks were repulsed.

According to the artist’s idea, the viewers looking at the panorama should have the feeling that they are standing on the Malakhov Kurgan. The effect of being at the height was achieved with a carefully crafted composition and correctly chosen lighting. Objects made in full size are placed closer to the observer. These are embankments of fortifications, powder barrels, cannonballs, cannons, rocky ground torn apart by explosions.

In the background of the canvas, a large-scale action unfolds, where the viewer’s attention is not concentrated on a single point, but at the same time the objects do not lose their definiteness of form. The area of ​​the scenic part of the panorama is 1610 m2, the area of ​​the subject plan is 900 m2.

Fragment At the defensive tower of the Malakhov Kurgan, 1905
Fragment At the defensive tower of the Malakhov Kurgan, 1905

The distance from the edge of the installation to the painting is 12 meters. Reflected diffused light, correct perspective and smooth transition from subject foreground to widescreen image create a deep airy space. This helps viewers to step by step review all episodes of one day at a distance of about 30 km. The artist deeply felt this war, the mood of the soldiers, sailors, civilians who took a direct part in it. The painting depicts about 4,000 figures of real heroes of defense. In each fragment, the painter truthfully revealed the characters’ characters, their inner state.

The compositional center of the panorama captures one of the difficult moments in the defense of the height.

Gloomy clouds of smoke covered the city. The mass of people in military uniform at a small two-tiered fortification the defense tower of the Malakhov Kurgan is shown in motion. Some of them are in a hurry to help Gervais’ battery. On a dilapidated tower, four staff officers assess the advancing enemy forces. Below the entrance is an icon. In front of her, against the background of soldiers, the figure of a naval priest is drawn. There, the sister of mercy Praskovya Grafova assists the wounded. To the right of the tower, the explosion of an enemy bomb destroyed the powder supply. An incandescent stream of flame rushing to the sky intensifies anxiety. Left Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov. He stands with his hands on the parapet and watches the battle. At this point on June 28, 1855, he was mortally wounded.

Fragment At the location of the Nikiforov battery, 1905
Fragment At the location of the Nikiforov battery, 1905

On the left flank of the mound, Nikiforov’s five-gun battery is continuously firing at the enemy. Nearby, soldiers are preparing to take up combat positions. The orphan Dasha from the Ship side of Sevastopol stands right there with a yoke on his shoulder, she brought water to the soldiers. The losses are borne by both sides. The battery icon has the bodies of the fallen heroes. The wounded are carried on a stretcher to the shelter. To the right, carts are depicted, behind them are the reserve battalions of the Russian army running to the aid of the defenders of the height.

In addition to the battle scenes, much attention is paid to the everyday concerns of the heroes.

The artist showed the soldier’s linen hanging, soldiers resting, and residential earthen structures. In the opening of the blown-up dugout, a man is seen taking water.
An important episode of the struggle for the city during its last assault was the battle for the battery of Peter Gervais. The author managed to accurately convey the drama of the situation. On the right side of the battery is the tricolor flag of the French the enemy has temporarily succeeded in this area. Mortal danger looms over Sevastopol. On a white horse, Lieutenant General Stepan Aleksandrovich Khrulev is leading an infantry regiment into the attack.

Fragment Destroyed dugout, 1905
Fragment Destroyed dugout, 1905

Khrulev’s adjutant points out the direction with a saber where help is required. Near the destroyed building hand-to-hand combat. The faded Russian greatcoats mixed with the red and blue enemy uniform. As a result of the coordinated actions of the approaching reserve, it was possible to recapture the battery. In the background, Russian buckshot reflects enemy attacks. The object installation shows a fortification Stanislavsky’s battery left by the artillerymen. Near the icon with burning candles lies a dead soldier covered with an overcoat the only three-dimensional human figure in the entire panorama.

The painting “Defense of Sevastopol” by Franz Roubaud is a large-format work with the effect of presence

Author: Franz Roubaud (1856-1928).
Year of writing: 1905
Size: 11500 x 1400 cm.
Style: Realism.
Genre: Battle.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas.
Location: Museum of Defense of Sevastopol, Crimea. Franz Alekseevich Roubaud is a brilliant panoramic artist of the late 19th early 20th centuries.

He is the author of famous historical masterpieces that perpetuate the heroism and identity of the defenders of the Fatherland. His works are characterized by vitality and truthfulness in the transmission of military and domestic subjects. Monumental battle scenes and landscape sketches were combined by the master into a single artistic image that has a pronounced emotional impact. In 1901, Roubaud received a government assignment to produce a work for the fiftieth anniversary of the defense of Sevastopol in 1854-1855.

Fragment Scout P. Cat leads a captured soldier, 1905
Fragment Scout P. Cat leads a captured soldier, 1905
Painting creation

The state treasury allocated 144 thousand rubles for the construction of the panorama-monument. The parameters of the painting were prescribed in the contract: 14 meters in height and 115 meters in length. In order to accommodate the canvas of these dimensions, the master built a workshop-pavilion on the site allocated to him by the Munich municipality. The artist conceived to depict the brightest, victorious day of the Crimean War. The heroism of the Russian army could not change the course of events.

The selected enemy troops, having a numerical superiority, occupied the Malakhov Kurgan. The commander-in-chief of the Crimean army, Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov, with the loss of a strategically important height, considered the defense of the city inappropriate. The southern part of Sevastopol was abandoned. Russian troops withdrew to its northern side. In Sevastopol, Franz Alekseevich personally examined the places of hostilities, talked with participants and eyewitnesses of heroic events, studied archival documents.

Fragment Surgeon N. I. Pirogov at the entrance to the dressing station, 1905
Fragment Surgeon N. I. Pirogov at the entrance to the dressing station, 1905

The artist has created over fifty sketches. The sketch of the future grandiose monument to the defenders of the Malakhov Kurgan was approved and approved in February 1902. In Munich, together with Roubaud, German painters and students of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste) worked. In November 1904, the “selection committee” got acquainted with the gigantic work. The artist was accused of unnecessary demonstration of ordinary heroes of the battle, he was advised to replace the figure of Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov with Gorchakov. The painter did not agree, but by the will of the emperor he was forced to make adjustments, as a result of which the figure of the outstanding Russian naval commander disappeared in the picture. In May 1905, the brilliant work was presented to the general public, and from 1909 it was placed in a special building in Sevastopol.

The work was available for free contemplation until June 25, 1942.

In 1926, on the initiative of the Soviet authorities, the panorama was restored, as a result of which the work took the form that was originally intended by the author.

On this fateful day, the building with the masterpiece was subjected to massive Nazi bombing. 493 of 1610 square meters of canvas were irretrievably lost in the fire. The surviving fragments were significantly damaged. They were evacuated to Novorossiysk on the destroyer “Tashkent”, then transported to Novosibirsk and from there to Moscow. However, experts considered that it was not possible to restore the creation of the brilliant master. Only in 1950 it was decided to rebuild the burnt building. In the same period, the reconstruction of the picture began.

Franz Roubaud. Panorama Defense of Sevastopol. Fragment The Battle for Gervais's Battery, 1905
Franz Roubaud. Panorama Defense of Sevastopol. Fragment The Battle for Gervais’s Battery, 1905

A group of the best Moscow battle painters worked on Roubaud’s work. This was not an ordinary restoration, but a repetition of the technique of the outstanding panoramaist, the execution of a creative copy of a masterpiece. They decided to give the picture an uplifted flavor, to praise the great feat and high spirit of the people. Based on historical facts, photographs of the author’s sketches, archival evidence, additional scenes were written: the arrival of the founder of Russian military field surgery Nikolai Ivanovich Pirogov, the return from the assignment of the famous scout Peter Koshka and others.

Photo of the building of the Museum of Defense of Sevastopol, 2016
Photo of the building of the Museum of Defense of Sevastopol, 2016
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