In the portrait of S.N. Bulgakov and P.A. Florensky, entitled “Philosophers”, Nesterov wrote two outstanding representatives of religious and philosophical thought. The artist admired the world of ideas and feelings of Father Pavel Florensky in his famous book “The Pillar and Statement of Truth”. He chose the genre of a pair portrait to show two antinomical characters in a single search for truth.
It is getting dark. Two people wander unhurriedly, engrossed in conversation. In the same turns of figures, tilts of the head – different expressions. A priest in a white cassock is the embodiment of meekness, humility, obedience to fate. The other, in a black coat, Bulgakov is the personification of violent opposition, violent rebellion. In his memoirs, Bulgakov revealed Nesterov’s intention: “It was, according to the artist’s plan, not only a portrait of two friends … but also a spiritual vision of the era. Both faces expressed the same comprehension, but in different ways, one of them as a vision of horror, the other as peace, joy, victorious overcoming. That was the artistic clairvoyance of two images of the Russian apocalypse, on this side and on the other side of earthly life, the first image in the struggle and confusion (and in my soul it related precisely to the fate of my friend), the other to the conquered accomplishment, which we are now contemplating. “
Florensky’s fate turned out to be tragic. This outstanding thinker, scientist, who anticipated many of the ideas of semiotics, died in 1934 in the Stalinist camps. Bulgakov, who switched to Orthodox theology from Marxism, emigrated to France in 1923.
Year of painting: 1917.
Dimensions of the painting: 123 x 125 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Genre: genre painting.
Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.