The Vision to the Youth Bartholomew

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The Vision to the Youth Bartholomew
Mikhail Nesterov 001.jpg
Artist Mikhail Nesterov
Year 1889—1890
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 160 cm × 211 cm (63 in × 83 in)
Location State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The Vision to the Youth Bartholomew (Russian: Видение отроку Варфоломею) is a painting by the Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov, the first and best known work in his series on Sergius of Radonezh, a medieval Russian saint. The painting illustrates an episode from "The Life of St. Sergius" by Epiphanius the Wise:

One day his father sent him to seek for a lost foal, on his way he met a monk, a venerable elder, a stranger, a priest, with the appearance of an angel. This stranger was standing beneath an oak tree, praying devoutly and with much shedding of tears, the boy, seeing him, humbly made a low obeisance, and awaited the end of his prayers.

The venerable monk, when he had ended his prayers, glanced at the boy and, conscious that he beheld the chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, he called him to his side, blessed him, bestowed on him a kiss in the name of Christ, and asked: "What art thou seeking, or what dost thou want, child?" The boy answered, "My soul desires above all things to understand the Holy Scriptures. I have to study reading and writing, and I am sorely vexed that I cannot learn these things. Will you, holy Father, pray to God for me, that he will give me understanding of book-learning?" The monk raised his hands and his eyes toward heaven, sighed, prayed to God, then said, "Amen."

Taking out from his satchel, as it were some treasure, with three fingers, he handed to the boy what appeared to be a little bit of white wheaten bread prosphora, saying to him: "Take this in thy mouth, child, and eat; this is given thee as a sign of God's grace and for the understanding of Holy Scriptures. Though the gift appears but small, the taste thereof is very sweet.[1]"

The image of St. Sergius of Radonezh, near and dear to the artist since childhood, was embodiment of the moral ideal for Nesterov. Particularly important role Nesterov gave St. Sergius in rallying the Russian people.

Sketches of landscapes the artist wrote in 1899 in the vicinity of the Trinity Sergius Lavra, settling in the village Komyakovo near Abramtsevo. Abramtzevo became one of the favorite places of Mikhail Nesterov.

There he finished top (landscape) part and went to Ufa, the artist hurried, because he was preparing for the XVIII Peredvizhniki exhibition and despite having the flu, continued to work actively. One day he felt dizzy, he stumbled (he stood on a small stool), fell and injured the canvas, it was impossible to continue the work, he needed a new canvas, which finally was brought.[2]

The painting, which caused the most contradictory opinions, became a sensation XVIII Peredvizhniki exhibition and was bought by Pavel Tretyakov for his gallery, until the end of his days, the artist was convinced that "The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew" remained the best of his work. In old age, the artist used to say:

I won't live for long. "Youth Bartholomew" will. Even thirty, fifty years after my death, he will still be something people discuss, and so will live, and me with it
Жить буду не я. Жить будет «Отрок Варфоломей». Вот если через тридцать, через пятьдесят лет после моей смерти он ещё будет что-то говорить людям — значит, он живой, значит, жив и я[3]