The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV (1878 – 1891) by Ilya Repin

The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV - Ilya Repin - 1878 - 1891

Artwork Information

TitleThe Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV
ArtistIlya Repin
Date1878 - 1891
Dimensions217 x 361 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationKharkiv Museum of Fine Arts, Kharkiv, Ukraine

About The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV

“The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV” is a renowned work of art by the artist Ilya Repin, created during a period that stretched from 1878 to 1891. This history painting, executed in oil on canvas, exemplifies the Realist art movement. The artwork measures 217 x 361 cm and is currently held in the Kharkiv Museum of Fine Arts, located in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The artwork captures a vibrant and dynamic scene filled with a variety of characters, resonant with the spirit of defiance and humor depicted in the historical event it portrays. The Zaporozhian Cossacks are seen gathered around a table, in the process of crafting a bold and humorous reply to a demand for their submission sent by Sultan Mahmoud IV. The figures exhibit a wide range of expressions; some appear joyous and boisterous, others pensive or mocking, contributing to the overall atmosphere of camaraderie and robust defiance.

Foreground details include a central figure seated at the table penning the letter, surrounded by Cossacks in various states of dress and armor, their faces reflecting an array of emotions from glee to scorn. The diverse garb of the Cossacks, from traditional military uniforms to more casual and ragged attire, illustrates a social hierarchy and individuality within their group. The inclusion of aspects such as traditional weapons and a lute reinforces the cultural setting of the piece.

In the background, the faint outlines of ships and the sky suggest a broad setting, providing context and depth to the scene. Repin’s attention to textural details, from the wispy white of a Cossack’s hair to the intricate embroidery on their garments, lends a tangible quality to the scene. The use of vivid colors and dramatic lighting heightens the emotive impact of the scene and draws the viewer into this historical moment replete with a sense of historical pride and insubordinate glee.

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