Friedrich Froebel - Nesterov

Mikhail Vasil’evich Nesterov

Mikhail Nesterov is best known for his revival of religious painting in late nineteenth century Russia. Being a deeply religious man he sought to combine his Orthodox beliefs with the Art Nouveau style of the time. Nesterov painted delicate and poetic Russian landscape; birch trees, forests and groves, quaint wooden churches, fields and meadows. His lyrical synthesis between the figures and the surrounding landscape create a special aura of mysticism and spirituality, an artistic interpretation of Russian piety and faith.

The simplified outlines and muted colours of the landscape of The Vision of the Boy Bartholomew recall the works of the French artist Puvis de Chavannes, which Nesterov saw on a trip to Paris in 1889. This large oil painting depicts the legend of the childhood of the patron saint of Russia, saint Sergei of Radonezh (1322-92)

Nesterov was close to the Imperial family, his painting of The Annunciation was the Empress's favorite work of art. He was deeply impressed by the work of Grand Duchess Elizabeth with the poor and attached himself to the life of her Martha and Mary Convent. Nesterov, who had exquisite taste, designed the pearl-gray and white habit worn by the sisters.

The church of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God was sanctified in 1911 (designed by A. V. Schusev, interior and icons by M.V. Nesterov). It was built according to the tradition of Novgorod and Pskov architecture, and preserved the spirit of cozy warmth of small parish churches while it was spacious enough to host over a thousand worshippers.

Mikhail Nesterov (left in the picture) and architect Shusev at the Mary and Martha Convent in 1912

Nesterov said the following about the church:

"The church of the Protection of the Holy Theotokos is one of the best modern buildings of Moscow, which alongside with its serving directly the needs of the parish could be a place of artistic and educational value for all Moscovites"

Every Sunday after the evening service at the church of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God, people could attend lectures and sing prayers and Psalms in chorus. Metropolitan Anasthasius wrote in his memoirs, "Both the external and internal life of the monastery as well as everything the Grand Duchess Elizabeth created, were marked with the special air of refinement and culture not because she ascribed great importance to it, but because that was the involuntary and natural way her creative spirit influenced everything around her"

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The Vision of the Boy Bartholomew by Mikhail Nesterov
The Vision of the Boy Bartholomew

Bartholomew was a poor student, unable to learn how to read. He often prayed to God in secret: "O Lord, give me understanding of learning." One day he met in the fields a holy elder who asked, "What are you seeking, my child?" The boy replied that he wished most of all to read and write. Assuring him that for his faith the Lord would give him learning, the elder at the boy's entreaty accompanied him to his parents' house. The elder told the boy to read aloud from the Psalter. "Father, I do not know how," Bartholomew said. But after the elder commanded him to "Speak the word of God without doubt," the boy began to read easily. Then the elder foretold to the parents that their son would be a dwelling of the Holy Trinity, that he would be great before God and man, and that he would direct others by his virtuous life.

Athlete of Virtues

The life of saint Sergei of Radonezh (1322-92) is an especially good life to retell to our children. Those who exercise, or practice, the virtues are just as much in training for a competition or contest as athletes in the sports arena. The physical athlete competes for an earthly, passing glory, the prize for a spiritual athlete is the unending bliss of Paradise.