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Reply Zaporozhian Cossacks Write to the Turkish Sultan of Turkey by Ilya Repin

Reply Zaporozhian Cossacks Write to the Turkish Sultan of Turkey by Ilya Repin


The story of this masterpiece by the great Russian artist is well known: the Zaporozhye Cossacks are writing a response to the Turkish Sultan's proposal to go over to the side of the Ottoman Empire. The text of this answer has also been preserved, full of the most refined insults addressed to the "lord of the brilliant Port". We are seeing a kind of "brainstorming" - the process of composing an reply to the Sultan.

The composition of the picture is a clearly defined center part, around which the author built several "circles" each filled with different semantic content.

In the center is the scribe, most probably the only person of those depicted, who can read and write. Judging by his clothes, he is a seminarian from the Cossacks who undertook to state the answer of the Cossacks on paper. He is enjoying writing the letter. The scribe expresses his joy in a quite restrained manner, as it befits a "scientist" man.

Let us consider the "inner circle". A Cossack with a pipe in his hands loomed over the figure of the clerk. Apparently, this is one of the main inspirers of the Cossacks. He has been depicted in the moment of pondering another exquisite swear word addressed to Mohammed. Another second and a new line of the message will be invented... Further clockwise - a Cossack choked on laughter, followed by another Zaporozhets who almost falls from laughter, then a half-naked Cossack, relishing every word of the letter with pleasure, a couple of loudly laughing warriors, a Cossack without shadows of a smile on his face, a very young Cossack who gladly takes part in the process of writing an answer.

In the outer "circle" two figures have been shown especially noticeable: a laughing Cossack in a red zhupan and a gloomy Cossack with a bandage on his head. They seem to oppose each other. On closer view, not all of the Cossacks succumbed to joy and fun. Here and there are depicted anxious, serious, frightened faces. A Zaporozhets with a bandage seems to imagine the upcoming battles with the Turks, the impending losses... Next to a laughing big man in a red zhupan, the artist depicted a skeptical Cossack in a yellow headdress. In his gaze there is condemnation and anxiety... The Cossack in orange is also shown skeptical, looking out from under the arm of a laughing Cossack in the center. However, anxiety and skepticism are clearly in the minority here. The atmosphere of the picture was laughter, daring, confidence, and courage - the main characteristics of the soldiers of the Zaporozhye Cossacks.
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