Victor Vasnetsov is known for his paintings on the subjects of Russian epics and fairy tales. One of the first such paintings – “Three princesses of the underworld.” The artist painted this canvas by the order of the well-known industrialist Savva Mamontov in 1881.
“Three princesses” were to decorate the Board of the Donetsk railway along with two more paintings: “The Scythians fight with the Slavs” and “Carpet-plane”. The paintings are connected by a common allegorical idea: in the depths of the Scythian land reclaimed Rusich found untold treasures – minerals, and the railway laid in the Donetsk steppes will make it possible, like a magic carpet, to reach the unknown thirties.
Practical members of the Board considered that the fairy-tale motifs did not belong in the official building, and the canvases did not decorate its walls. And Viktor Vasnetsov found his way as an artist – a singer of Russian antiquity.
In 1884, the painting “Three Princesses of the Underground Kingdom” was rewritten, and this version of it adorns the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Before us are three majestic beauties in luxurious robes. Each of the princesses represents one of the riches of the underground bowels. In a fairy tale – this is copper, silver and gold. Vasnetsov makes one of them a prized coal.
Beauties are surrounded by mighty dark rocks and sharp stones. Behind the girls a pink sunset sky with torn lilac clouds. In the foreground on the right are figures of men bowing before the princess in a respectful bow.
The beauty is on the left, modestly lowering her gaze and crossing her arms. In his hands – a lace handkerchief. Her proud posture betrays her reign. A truly royal look at the girl standing in the center. Crowns on the heads of both princes are heavy and richly decorated with precious stones. The clothes are embroidered with gold and silver. The luxury of ancient Russian dresses, carefully drawn designs and ornaments on them symbolize the richness of the underground bowels of the Russian
The black-haired girl, dressed in a modest noble black dress, differs from her stately sisters. Her head is not decorated with a crown. Hair flows easily over the shoulders. In the pose of a beauty, in the hands lowered along the body – confident calmness, hidden grandeur and pride.
The static character of the figures demonstrates restraint and detachment of the princesses from the earthly world. They do not notice neither the men, smitten by their splendor, nor the riot and beauty of the sunset. They themselves are the personification of the greatness, beauty and strength of the spirit of ancient Russia, which will become the main source of inspiration for the truly Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov.