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Metropolitan Tonsuring Ivan the Terrible into Schema Before His Death. 1887

Geller Pyotr,
Oil on canvas
142 х 200

State Russian Museum

Пост.: 1944 из магазина Ювелирторга (Ленинград)


Ivan the Terrible died in the Kremlin on 18 March 1584. Shortly before he died the Tsar ordered a chessboard to be brought in, but while he was playing he suddenly fell back and began gasping for breath. Doctors and a confessor were immediately sent for. According to ancient tradition, when a tsar was on the point of death the Metropolitan would tonsure him as a monk so that he would go to a better world as a member of the clergy. Many of Ivan’s contemporaries believed that his death was not natural, and they suspected the boyars Boris Godunov and Bogdan Belsky of poisoning him as, fearing the Tsar’s disfavour, they had bribed a doctor. Pyotr Geller has painted a canvas in the traditions of the academic art of the second half of the 19th century, combining an interest in historical details with a slightly theatrical over-emphasis on the psychological. The artist shows Feodor Ioannovich, the Tsarevich and heir to the throne, behind the armchair and leaning forward over his father in alarm, while on the far left is the boyar Boris Godunov, calm, imperious and already thinking about the throne.

Author's Biography

Geller Pyotr

Geller, Pyotr Isaakovich (PesachItskovich)
1862, Kerch – 1933, Leningrad
Painter. Studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1878–1887). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1889). Member and exhibitor of the St Petersburg Society of Artists (1889–1918, member of the board of governors from 1915); Jewish Society for the Encouragement of Artists (1915–1918); Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (1924); ArkhipKuindzhi Society (1926–1930).

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