Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 by Ilya Repin

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Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 by Ilya Repin

Painting NameIvan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16 1581
Painter NameIlya Repin
Completion Date1885
Current LocationThe Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow Russian Federation)

Ivan the terrible of Russia, living up to his nickname even killed his elder son also named Ivan while having a quarrel over some family as well as military issues and disagreements between them. The history painting is painted by the highly known Russian painter Ilya Repin from 19th century who enjoyed fame in Russian paintings similar to Leo Tolstoy enjoyed in his art of fine literature.

The subject unveils one of the most powerful Tsars of Russia and also the first Tsar who enjoyed the title of being “Tsar of All the Russias” for having the largest empire in his time. Firstly, acquiring the political and authorial skills being the Grand Prince of Moscow, he ascended to be the Tsar of Russia from 1547 to his death. He was one of the most successful and popular kings in Russian history.

Though, being popular and famous, he was also considered to be paranoid and impulsive at occasions by the historians. He would often lose his temper in the situations he didn’t find comfortable for himself. He was involved in such incidents for many times, during his life. Though, the most resentful and horrible incident was killing his own son in the thoughtless anger.

The Tsar prohibited his elder son Ivan’s first two wives to enter in holy places for their inability of having a child. This caused some annoyance in his son’s mind, but being an obedient son, he never argued against his father.

Well, the breaking point of his patience revealed when he found his father beating his third wife who was pregnant at the time – the beating caused her miscarriage.

The reason was her inappropriately light clothing. The scene enraged him and let out the whole oppressed anger out. He argued with his father heavily and the talk reached to his father’s fails at the long fought Livonian wars.

Although, intended for the good of Russia, Ivan’s father mistook him as a rebellion for his reign. He got furious and harmed his son severely on his front head with his staff. The attack was deep. It causes some severe bloodshed.

Realizing what he just had done, Ivan the terrible set aside his dying son, taking him in his lap and crying out loud ‘…I have killed my son! I have killed my son…’

The large round eyes wide opened in the shock of realizing what terrible crime he just did and similar shock in his dead son’s eyes is hysteric. The scepter is lying in the foreground. The fallen chair displaced pillow on the left side clues the early argument between them.

The scar caused by the incident gave him pain throughout his life until he died three years in 1984. Similarly painful fact for him was that his second son Feodor I, who became his successor, was mentally incapable of ruling an empire (he was just a nominal ruler) and didn’t have any children. After Feodor I’s death in 1598, the whole Russia was put into the “Time of Troubles” which brought famine and killed one third of the whole Russian population of the time.

This state of famine caused Russians to choose a Tsar first time by an election. The blood-red yellowish tint spread all over the painting is maybe the indication towards the horror and dreadful aftereffects of the accidental murder by Ivan the Terrible.

Thinking from the Butterfly Effect theory, the death of Ivan also caused the deaths of millions in the Time of Troubles.


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