Viktor Vasnetsov. Painting The Frog Princess, 1918

The painting “The Frog Princess” by Viktor Vasnetsov

Viktor Vasnetsov. Painting The Frog Princess, 1918
Viktor Vasnetsov. Painting The Frog Princess, 1918

“The Frog Princess” is a painting painted by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov in 1918 and included in the only painting cycle “Poem of Seven Tales”, on the creation of which the master worked during the last 25 years of his life.

The painting “The Frog Princess” by Viktor Vasnetsov is a fairy tale that came to life under the brush of the great master

The canvas depicts a scene from the literary work of the same name. In the center of the composition is Vasilisa the Wise. Her elegant dress is embroidered with gold embroidery. Long blond braids fall below the knees. The forehead is decorated with a low kokoshnik-crown with a scattering of gems. The surroundings match the heroine.

The walls of the royal chambers are painted with marvelous patterns. Underfoot, on the parquet floor, an expensive carpet. A long table on oak legs is covered with a white tablecloth, the dishes on it are gold and silver with all kinds of dishes. A wonderful lake with snow-white swans has already appeared behind the carved arch. A Russian village can be seen in the background. And beyond it, up to the edge of the dark forest, stretches a golden field.

Peasant girls in national costumes lead round dances near the water. The idyll of a happy village life is complemented by a bright sky with fluffy clouds and graceful swans flying by. Meanwhile, the royal feast continues.

The princess dances selflessly. The sleeves of her dress in a swift whirlwind fly to the sides, and from under the hem the heels of graceful boots now and then flicker in the flood. The musicians maintain an atmosphere of unrestrained fun, play the harp and balalaika with might and main, bow their heads in time to the music. And the viewer gradually plunges into the storyline of a fairy tale familiar from childhood.

Title of the painting: “The Frog Princess”.
Author: Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926).
Year of writing: 1918
Size: 185 x 250 cm.
Style: Romanticism. Symbolism.
Genre: Fabulous epic. Technique: Oil painting. Material: Canvas.
Location: Memorial house-museum of V.M. Vasnetsov, Moscow.

Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov is a talented artist of the late 19th early 20th centuries.

Inspired by folklore and symbolism, at the junction of the historical genre and new modernist trends, he created a special Russian style, filled with folk beliefs, ancient customs and traditions of antiquity. Especially vividly the artistic worldview of the master was reflected in the works of the fairy-tale-epic genre and “The Poem of Seven Fairy Tales”.

Vasnetsov worked on the creation of the painting “The Frog Princess” for 17 years, starting in 1901. However, he did not leave any significant information in his diaries and letters. Therefore, any attempts to interpret the work can only be hypothetical. If you take a closer look at the details and draw historical parallels, the viewer clearly notices the despair caused by the internal political events taking place in the country.

Against the background of the agrarian reforms of the early 20th century, which destroyed the usual way of life of ordinary people, the image of the holiday of peasants with dances and round dances near the lake no longer seems so idyllic. The princess, who turned to them, waved her handkerchief as if she had said goodbye to the lost past forever.

The October Revolution of 1917 also made adjustments.

In the royal mansions, there is a clear overabundance of red. Drawings on walls and carpets, furniture details and musicians’ clothing are painted in it. Even their boots are exceptionally red, which at that time could only be afforded by representatives of the noble class.

Viktor Mikhailovich did not accept the changes that had taken place in the country, but he was well versed in colors and mythology. He depicted the princess’s outfit in green, which, on the one hand, fully corresponds to the plot of the fairy tale. But on the other hand, it is associated with not the most kind characters of Slavic legends: goblin, mermaids, mermaids, kikimors. Looking at the main character, it seems that the dress, like a frog skin, is about to slip off her. From under the split sleeves scattered to the sides, a snow-white shirt is already visible, the color of which in Christian symbolism personifies faith and purity.

However, even in this perspective, the work is replete with small details and aptly noted features of the national color, which the artist collected and studied throughout his life. Considering the marvelous interweaving of patterns, images of outlandish birds, flowers and palaces in the scenery, the viewer involuntarily plunges deeper and deeper into the plot and finds new elements that have not been noticed before. In the house-museum of Vasnetsov, where “The Frog Princess” is exhibited, visitors linger for a long time near the picture.

An interesting find of the artist was the image of Vasilisa’s appearance.

But how to draw “such a beauty that you can neither say in a fairy tale, nor describe with a pen,” if ideas about beauty are a subjective concept? Vasnetsov uses a non-standard technique. He writes the main character from the back. The viewer sees only the flexible, graceful camp of the dancing maiden, the elusive profile of the face in a slight turn of the neck.

The unearthly beauty remains behind the scenes, but is fully reflected in the admiring glances of the musicians who dance, sitting on benches, and are ready to start dancing at any moment. The painting “The Frog Princess” by Viktor Vasnetsov is not just an illustration for a fairy tale, but a full-scale painting that reflected the author’s skill, his reaction to the dramatic events of the early 20th century and forever entered the history of Russian art.