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In 1907, Benoit performed a series of works on historical subjects, which includes the painting “Parade under Paul I”. This was due to the order of the publisher I.N. Knebel for his "Russian history in pictures." In addition to the works of Benoit, the book contained paintings by Dobuzhisky, Serov and other brush masters.
Consider the picture "Parade under Paul I." The canvas takes the viewer to the end of the XVIII century, depicting a march of soldiers dressed in uniforms of the Prussian model. In the foreground is imprinted, the emperor himself, looking somewhat arrogantly at what is happening, in the company of his sons. Their figures undoubtedly echo the bronze horseman who can be seen in the distance, next to the unfinished Mikhailovsky Castle.
The spectator’s attention is also attracted by the figure of a subject who, in reverence and even dumb horror, took off his headdress before the sovereign.
Everything in this picture is symbolic. Even the image of the barrier brought to the fore by the artist is far from accidental. On the one hand, this detail separates the viewer from what is happening, creating the effect of a miniature theater. On the other hand, the barrier does not seem to release the emperor. Thus, the artist shows that the fate of Paul I is solved: he was destined to be killed at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the Mikhailovsky Castle, which looks like a gloomy omen.
The artist’s attitude to the emperor was twofold: for Benoit, the image of Paul I is filled at the same time with knightly nobility and piercing madness. Note that the timing - the turn of the century - looks very symptomatic for the artist of the Silver Age and cannot be explained only by the requirement of order.
In bygone times, Benoit, as it were, sought to find the key to understanding which path Russia should take, a topic that is generally very common and relevant to the twilight era of the 19th – 20th centuries. Perhaps this helped Benoit so well to reflect on the canvas the spirit of those times.
Painting Shishkin Oak Grove