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Culture and Art
Reference:

"Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov: aesthetics of the painting, search for an artistic image, perception by contemporaries

Zhelnova Elena Gennadyevna

ORCID: 0000-0001-6883-4552

Postgraduate student, The Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia; Head of the exhibition department, Ilya Glazunov Moscow State Art Gallery

13 Volkhonka str., Moscow, 119019, Russia

alena_zhelnova@mail.ru

DOI:

10.7256/2454-0625.2024.4.70302

EDN:

SZHBPH

Received:

27-03-2024


Published:

03-04-2024


Abstract: Purpose of this article is analysis of painting by P. I. Sokolov (1753-1791) Mercury and Argus (1776) in context preferences of era. Objectives of study: analyze preparatory drawings and picture; study archival sources, artist reports; reveal process of painting; represent aesthetic ideals of epoch and perception of personality. Our focus will be on artistic process of creation historical picture in second half of XVIII century on example of work by P. I. Sokolov Mercury and Argus. Research subject is role of sketches from nature, sketch composition in work of P. I. Sokolov on picture Mercury and Argus. Author considers of visual technique, graphic-plastic composition, preparatory graphic, identifying process of working on picture based on academic education system. Citing quotes from letters, reports and writings of second half of XVIII century author analyses what was typical for art of period under study, what tasks artist set for himself, what conditions were necessary for expressiveness of visual image and idea of picture as well as her positive evaluation by her contemporaries. During study were applied: formal, formal-stylistic, art criticism analysis. Author comes to conclusion that work on historical painting in second half of XVIII century included a large systematic creative process dictated by academic education system at Imperial Academy of Arts. Analysis showed that execution of sketches and drawings from nature became basis for subsequent search for better image. Historical painting of second half of XVIII century reflected aesthetic views and ideals of era, being an artistic embodiment of ideas of theoretical treatises aimed at improving visual image. Novelty of research lies in considering painting not only as part of artistic heritage, but also as a reflection of academic education system at Imperial Academy of Arts in second half of XVIII century and aesthetics of educational classicism.


Keywords:

historical painting, art of XVIII century, academician of historical painting, Petr Ivanovich Sokolov, The Imperial Academy of arts, classicism, preparatory drawing, life drawing, painting, graphics

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Historical painting in Russia in the second half of the XVIII century. became a special phenomenon in Russian art. It reflected the ideas of theoretical treatises of Western Europe, the aesthetic ideas of Russian enlighteners, which found their refraction and adaptation in an artistic image. "The main requirement of academic methodology is imitation of models," S. V. Moiseeva wrote, "it was to find perfect embodiment in historical painting and sculpture [8, p. 24]." A. A. Karev noted that the appearance of historical painting as such was part of the process of genre differentiation in the second half of the XVIII century, and indicated in In the academic hierarchy, the primacy of the "great historical kind" is also symptomatic because it symbolized the birth of an easel painting [3, p. 149].

Special requirements were imposed on the historical painter in the XVIII century, which were finally formulated in 1793 by I. F. Urvanov in the "Short Guide to the knowledge of drawing and painting of a historical kind" (hereinafter the "Short Guide"): he "must necessarily, as well as a poet, be a theologian, philosopher, subtle politician, skilful a historian and a hardworking examiner of antiquities" [5, p. 127]. One should also not forget that in the second half of the XVIII century. work on a painting on a theme from history or mythology included a large systematic creative process, which, equally, included mastery of the art of drawing (preparatory sketches and drawings from nature), the ability to analyze the material and search for an artistic image (work on sketches compositions), as well as the ability to embody the best composition with the help of color and light (a painting).

Russian Russian Historical Painting Based on the above, in this article we will consider the work of P. I. Sokolov (1753-1791) "Mercury and Argus" (1776, State Russian Museum Zh4976), as a reflection of the aesthetic credo of Russian historical painting of the second half of the XVIII century, and also analyze how the search and embodiment of an artistic image took place. The object of our attention will be not only the painting itself, but also a number of preparatory sketches and sketches for the painting.

The painting "Mercury and Argus" was created by the artist in Rome during a retirement trip (1773-1778). Russian pensioners, graduates of the Imperial Academy of Arts (hereinafter IAH), had to inform IAH about their successes and work done every third of the year [2, p. 47]. We learn about the process of working on the painting from the letters of P. I. Sokolov, sent by him to the IAKH, and now stored in the Russian State Historical Archive (hereinafter RGIA). In one of them, the artist reported on "the arrangement of various sketches, from which, at my discretion, I will try to bring to the picture and will not hesitate to send the successes of the first beginning" [12, L. 1].

Developing the idea, image and compositional structure of the painting "Mercury and Argus", P. I. Sokolov created many sketches and drawings from nature. The preserved studies of the sitters, individual fragments of the composition, heads, arms and legs, animal figures, which we will consider in more detail later, allow us to analyze the methodology and sequence of developing an artistic image. All these drawings deserve special attention and study not only as preparatory auxiliary material for the painting, but also as an independent graphic legacy of the master. V. V. Babiyak wrote about the types of these works that "being an integral attribute of the artistic process, the works not only help researchers understand the mechanics of the artist's creative search, the stages of development of the idea, but give wonderful examples of works of artistic significance [1, p. 284]".

In the funds of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a report by P. I. Sokolov from 1774 has been preserved, in which the artist reported: "I have the honor to inform the Imperial Academy of Arts that I began to write a composition representing Argus with Mercury, tried as much as possible to send along with this report, but could not make it, because I had difficulty in drawing sketches, according to I will try to send the end correctly" [12, l. 38]. This document shows that work on the painting began in 1774. The canvas was completed in 1776. The artist reported this to the Council of the IAH in 1776 [13, l. 11-11 vol.]. Preserved in the funds of the State Russian Museum (hereinafter the State Museum of Fine Arts) and the Scientific Research Museum at the Russian Academy of Arts (hereinafter The preparatory drawings for the painting also relate to 1774-1776. This fact shows that P. I. Sokolov continued to look for the best images and painted from nature throughout the work on the painting.

Let's turn to the analysis of the preparatory drawings for the painting. One of the most famous preparatory drawings by P. I. Sokolov for the painting "Mercury and Argus" are two graphic sheets "Lying model in a helmet" in 1775 and "Sitting model" in 1776 [11, pp. 70-71]. Both drawings are kept in the funds of the GRM.

In the drawing "The Reclining Sitter" (P39239), there is an obvious portrait similarity with the image of Mercury in the painting (in the final version of the composition, the position of the figure of Mercury is changed). A.V. Maximova noted that this sheet fully reveals the skill and inspired creativity inherent in the drawings of P. I. Sokolov [11, p. 70]. The artist perfectly composes the figure in the sheet. In this drawing, he masterfully conveys a complex movement and a person's willingness to disturb a state of rest at any second. Mercury seems to be waiting for the right moment, and as soon as it comes, it will instantly fly up to the sleeping Argus.

"The Sitting Model" (R39245) is one of the preparatory drawings for the figure of Argus. For this image, the artist chooses a person with a larger body. Here the author follows the plot, because Argus was a giant who guarded Io, the imprisoned Hero from Mercury. For the drawing, P. I. Sokolov even changes the tone of the paper from the gently greenish-gray, which he uses for images of young men, to gray-blue. The pose of the figure and the image itself are more restrained, there is some severity in the image of the sitter. A.V. Maximova noted that this drawing breathes with hidden strength, the tension of restrained passions, and the artist achieves virtuosity: the figure is deployed in the most complex way in space, the angles are impeccable [11, p. 70]. This is one of the few productions of the Italian period (1773-1778), where P. I. Sokolov paints a man in such a complex perspective. In a painting, he will get away from the excessive tension of the image, while achieving the greatest impression of a dream state. In this drawing, the artist masterfully copes with the transfer of anatomy and plastics, making the shoulder girdle and abdominal area more massive. The use of shading and chalk becomes more free. This makes a special impression in the drapery on which the sitter is sitting. The artist easily manages to convey the movement of the silk material.

Preparatory sketches of individual body parts, such as the head, arms and legs, have also been preserved in the funds of the GRM. Often the artist places several similar sketches on one sheet. This is the drawing of the "Head and leg of Argus. The head of a sheep" (1776, GRM R3299). The sketches are made on blue paper with Italian pencil and chalk. The creative maturity of the artist is felt in them. Made quickly, with a wide sweeping stroke, without detailed elaboration, but containing clearly portrait and characteristic features of the sitter, they vividly demonstrate the author's courage and high level of skill.

Among the preparatory drawings for the painting "Mercury and Argus", animal drawings dated 1774-1776 have been preserved in the funds of the GRM and HIM RAX: "Cow's Head" (GRM R39260), "Setter's Head" (HIM RAX R1695) and "Ram's Head" (HIM RAX R1694). Animalistic drawings in the XVIII century are a rarity for Russian art. These images are brilliantly successful for the artist. A.V. Maximova noted that he captured the mood of animals and gave them the right to "intelligence" [11, p. 72]. P. I. Sokolov gives them all different emotional states, which is justified by the theme of the canvas. So, the dog guarding Io together with the giant Argus is depicted in a state of rest, sleep, like its owner, and the cow looks at the viewer with a sad look.

A sketch version of the composition "Mercury and Argus" for the painting of the same name (1776, GRM R-58454) has been preserved in the funds of the GRM. This graphic sheet occupies a special place among the graphic works of P. I. Sokolov: it shows how the composition of the canvas has changed. A common feature of this kind of work, as V. V. Babiyak correctly noted, is their subjectthematic and psychoemotional synthetics, when in a single compositional development the author needs to determine ways of expressing the psychological state of the hero who is in the thick of the depicted action, outline the appropriate environment, objects, determine the perspective, etc. Elements of a fictional landscape, in particular in which the plot action developed, they were intentionally introduced into the composition of the drawing and also worked "on the image", enhancing its content and semantic content. [1, p. 284]. This sheet also reminds us that the range of graphic techniques of academic draftsmen was wider than is commonly thought, and the history of the existence of the work sheds light on the reason for the rarity of such drawings: everything unfinished, intermediate, not "finished" to perfection was little appreciated, and therefore the drawing was used in the library of the Academy of Arts as a duplicate paper for the sitter's drawing [11, p. 72].

This graphic sheet shows that before proceeding to painting the painting, P. I. Sokolov developed several versions of the composition, since the preserved graphic sheet differs from the final layout of the figures on the canvas. The plastic language of this sheet differs from the drawings from nature. The Italian pencil drawing is softened here by wide fills of brown and pink watercolors and sanguine. The author does not focus on details; the ratio of masses and the distribution of forms in the composition are much more important to him. This extraordinarily delicate ratio of tone and line gives the sketch elegance and conciseness.

Having done a lot of preparatory work, P. I. Sokolov began to create the painting "Mercury and Argus" (1776, GRM). The painting is based on a story from ancient mythology. The choice of the plot could be due to several factors. N. N. Kovalenskaya saw in this work the points of contact between the manner and style of writing of one of the Roman teachers P. I. Sokolov J.M. Vienne [6, p. 136]. The influence on the choice of the plot could also be an appeal to the work of A. Lucatelli "Mercury lulling Argus", which, as N. N. Kovalenskaya reported, the artist copied immediately before writing his work [6, p. 399]. At the same time, considering the works of A. Lucatelli on the plot of the same name, we will not find a similar composition, borrowing figures, landscape elements and color. It is obvious that P. I. Sokolov, inspired by the works of European masters, developed and created an independent work reflecting his own ideas, as well as the ideals and artistic preferences of the era.

The character of the figurative-plastic language, the compositional structure of P. I. Sokolov's painting does not contain excessive dynamics, which we have seen in preparatory drawings from nature. The artist refers to the laws of classical composition construction, which, as V. V. Babiyak wrote, "traditionally included dividing the picture space into plans, highlighting the compositional center, arranging groups according to the principle of their closure into a certain stable geometric figure, taking into account diagonal-axial connections, knowledge of linear perspective, frontal demonstration of action (along the picture plane), his emphasized "theatricalization" [1, p. 292]". The artist uses a classical composition and combines two simultaneous events: Argus falling asleep and Mercury, behind which stands the liberated Io. The artist masterfully contrasts two characters and shows two types of beauty of the male body. R. M. Baiburova noted that the image of the naked body in the age of Enlightenment will become one of the priority topics in art and will enter the practice of art education as an already established standard [2, p. 119].

The pose, lowered head and relaxed arms of Argus enhance the feeling of a sleeping person. The artist does not create an image of a frightening giant, only contrasting it with the image of Mercury, in the position of whose body, following N. N. Kovalenskaya, A. A. Karev saw similarities with Apollo Saurocton [4, p. 100]. Of course, P. I. Sokolov studied ancient statues, this is reflected in the Roman journal of P. I. Sokolov [13, L. 14-28]. However, even if he turned to ancient prototypes when writing this canvas, the artist did not blindly transfer such images to the canvas, which confirms the presence of a preparatory drawing from nature for the figure of Mercury. In general, in the images of Mercury and Argus, there is a position similar to the sketches of the sitters that the artist performed earlier. The use of such forms was characteristic of all classical painting. For example, we find a similar position of a figure sitting on a stone in I. A. Akimov (1754-1814) in the painting "Self-Immolation of Hercules" (1782, GTG Inv. 21181) and in the work of the Italian master P. da Cortona (1596-1669) "Punishment of Hercules" (1635, Liechtenstein Museum). However, the techniques of visual technique and the nature of figurative and plastic language distinguish P. I. Sokolov's Argus from P. da Cortona's Hercules and I. A. Akimov: he does not use pasty strokes and fits the figure more softly into the surrounding space.

P. I. Sokolov managed to develop a composition that clearly expresses the content of the plot. A. A. Karev gave the correct description of the work, noting that regardless of the chosen plot, which could be tragic in essence, the painter persistently reproduced the atmosphere of harmonious peace, elegant bliss. The action as such is almost not interested in the master, which gives his works a touch of academic staging. However, his characters froze in appropriate poses, primarily in order to demonstrate the beauty of the nude, the most essential features of which were selected by the rich experience of European classical art [4, p. 100]. The perfection of the arrangement of the figures in space and the grace of the silhouettes show the high level of skill of the artist. There are no details here that distract attention from the main characters. P. I. Sokolov introduces a landscape into the work, which, nevertheless, made in a restrained color scheme, serves only as a background, and additional characters the enchanted beauty Io in the form of a cow and the dog Argus guarding her help us decipher what is happening.

According to the testimony of I. F. Reifenstein (1719-1793), who followed the successes of Russian pensioners in Rome, P. I. Sokolov had to correct some parts of the painting on the advice of P. Batoni and other experts [6, p. 136]. I. F. Reifenstein reported in IAH that "figures, in the size of nature, very good style and color will be quite faithful at the end" [9, p. 72].

The painting was obtained by IACH in 1776. In a report dated July 15, 1776, P. I. Sokolov reported: "I sent my work to the Imperial Academy of Arts, on the 15th of June, through the merchant Santi, who promised to send it correctly, namely, and I am sending several more full-scale drawings, tokmo, fourteen whole figures and two heads, drawn from nature" [13, l. 11-11 vol.]. Among these drawings were preparatory works for the painting. In this report, we can replace with what responsibility the artist approached the execution of his work: "The Imperial Academy of Arts will have doubts about my slowness in the work of my painting and about such a long time writing it, in which it was necessary to do more, but how having great difficulty for the first time to produce such a large proportion of the picture and about the search for happy positions of figures and sketches, from which I delayed sending before it was necessary" [13, l. 11 vol.].

The painting was appreciated by contemporaries. On September 13, 1778, P. I. Sokolov was "honored at the appointed time by a painting sent from foreign lands representing Argus with Mercury" [14, l. 1]. The title of appointed academician allowed him to complete a new painting for the title of academician in 1779. The painting "Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov became a model for copying by subsequent students of IACH. In 1824, the engraver F. I. Jordan received a large gold medal for the program "Mercury puts Argus to sleep" from a painting by P. I. Sokolov [7, p. 431].

An analysis of the preparatory drawings for the painting showed that P. I. Sokolov did a lot of systematic work on the search for an artistic image, guided, among other things, by generally accepted academic practice. I. F. Urvanov in 1793 wrote in the "Short Guide" that "doing from nature is the most important teaching in art, and nothing leads so much towards true knowledge" [10, p. 128]. This academic credo, large-scale and painstaking work on the details of the future canvas became the key to the high appreciation of the painting by contemporaries.

This canvas reflected not only the artist's excellent mastery of the principles of composition. According to the aesthetic views of classicism in Russia, composition, along with drawing, was one of the most important components of the advantages of the canvas. This is confirmed by the words of D. A. Golitsyn, quoted by A. A. Karev: "the positions of the figures should be natural, filled with expression, mixed in movements and resisted in members," and depending on the plot they will be "simple or noble, lively or humble" [4, p. 43].

The painting "Mercury and Argus" is an excellent example of a work written in the best traditions of classicism. The fundamental ideas of constructing the composition of classical art, formed in the academic practice of IACH in the middle of the XVIII century and published in 1793 in the work of I. F. Urvanov, contained the idea, "location is a decent room for various objects. The rules of it are to put those figures closer to the middle, that is, in the background, which in history are the main characters, or in other words, which are the main ones who perform the action; and others should be placed in the third and foreground, different accessories and decorations" [4, p. 63]. Thus, the composition assumed the presence to a large extent in the foreground, less often in the background, of minor details figures, plants, animals and even symbolic images, sometimes characterizing and helping to reveal the overall content. The canon of a painting or drawing in the classical era assumed that the main figures or actors occupied three parts of the painting, the rest was given to the landscape and minor details. Balancing the figures on the canvas was also important in the compositional solution, the relationship between which was based on rhythmically arranged lines and repetitions of movements between the main and secondary characters. Due to the gradation of many shades and semitones, P. I. Sokolov achieves a restrained color: warm shades predominate in the figures and in the foreground, cold ones in the landscape. This harmony of warm and cold enhances the restraint of the composition.

A. A. Karev wrote that in the "manuals" and "reasonings" of the second half of the XVIII century. quite a lot is written about pictorial techniques and the "image of scripture", which is otherwise understood as a way or a way to achieve grace, pleasantness and beauty [4, p. 41]." The figures on the canvas of P. I. Sokolov "Mercury and Argus" corresponded to the unspoken canon of the image of an ideal person or hero. We can see a description of the recommendations for this kind of images in the essay by the vice-president of the IACH P. P. Chekalevsky (1751-1817) "A discourse on free arts, with a description of some works by Russian artists" (1792). P. P. Chekalevsky advised artists to achieve such a drawing so that the figures show the correctness of contours, the majesty of images, the correct position in space and emotional characteristics [4, p. 41]. "Not being a supporter of active action," A. A. Karev, "P. I. Sokolov emphasizes the drama and tragedy of the situation with the help of "talking gestures" and appropriate objects [4, p. 102]." P. N. Petrov wrote that "the drowsiness and quiet euthanasia on Argus's face are successfully conveyed and in general the figure of the overseer for Jupiter's pranks are perfectly modeled. The color is somewhat dark and reddish, in the taste of ancient masters, for example Domenichino, but the artist, already attentive to his disadvantage, immediately began to study the colors and, having mastered the juiciness of Rubens' manner, tried to assimilate the softness of Van Dyck and the magic of Rembrandt's chiaroscuro [9, p. 73]." In fact, it can be noted, as follows from the theoretical provisions and practical recommendations of the second half of the XVIII century, much attention, in addition to drawing, was paid not only to chiaroscuro modeling, but also to expressiveness in the interpretation of figures and surroundings. The contrast and distribution of the illumination level of objects contributed to the formation of a spatial environment on the canvas, which emphasized the three-dimensional construction of the composition.

This canvas uses another important artistic technique, which we can find in many paintings of that period. The beauty of an elastic, flexible body as opposed to a heavy inert mass is a favorite contrast of enlightenment classicism, arising from its cult of organic vitality; not spontaneous physical power, but spiritualized matter, permeated with will, reason and feeling, is the slogan of this style [6, p. 135]. Thus, P. I. Sokolov brilliantly managed to absorb and reflect in this work the aesthetic credo of the era, having gone through a systematic creative search for the ideal artistic image.

The analysis of the painting "Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov, as well as preparatory drawings and a sketch of the composition, showed that the process of working on the canvas was based on the principles of the academic education system. The execution of drawings from nature, sketches of individual parts and fragments of the future composition, became the basis for the subsequent search for the best image in the historical picture. At the same time, it would be incorrect to assert that the preparatory drawings served for P. I. Sokolov only as secondary material. The composition, the quality of execution and the degree of drawing speak of high skill and attitude to these works as an independent kind of art. With their help, he comprehended the science of displaying the proportionality of all elements of composition, the harmonization of realistic and artistic-ideological creative directions, which created the condition for the formation of an artistic perception of the image in the painting "Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov, which reflected the ideas and aesthetic ideas of Russian and European enlighteners. The choice of this painting as a model for copying by subsequent generations of IACH students shows that P. I. Sokolov managed to create a reference work according to all the canons of classicism painting.

References
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The subject of the research in the article submitted for publication in the journal Culture and Art under the heading "Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov: aesthetics of the painting, search for an artistic image, perception by contemporaries", judging by the context, is most likely the role of sketches and sketches from nature in P. I. Sokolov's work on the painting "Mercury and Argus." If the object of research, the work of P. I. Sokolov on the painting "Mercury and Argus" (1776, GRM Zh4976), is mentioned in the title and attributed in the text as a series of historical events, then the reader has to guess about the subject of the author's attention throughout the article up to the final conclusion, where the author finally reveals why did he write so many words: "The execution of drawings from nature, sketches of individual parts and fragments of the future composition, became the basis for the subsequent search for the best image in the historical picture. At the same time, it would be incorrect to assert that the preparatory drawings served for P. I. Sokolov only as secondary material. The composition, the quality of execution and the degree of drawing speak of high skill and attitude to these works as an independent kind of art. With their help, he comprehended the science of displaying the proportionality of all elements of composition, the harmonization of realistic and artistic-ideological creative directions, which created the condition for the formation of an artistic perception of an image in the painting "Mercury and Argus" by P. I. Sokolov, which reflected the ideas and aesthetic ideas of Russian and European enlighteners." Such a detective intrigue (keeping the true subject of the author's attention secret from the reader until the end of the narrative) is not something unique and is characteristic of modern postmodern research thinking that ignores stable methodological traditions in favor of its own self-expression. A high degree of subjectivity, especially in addressing art, is justified in some cases, because the emotional content of works of art cannot be conveyed without artistic storytelling techniques. From the standpoint of relativistic epistemology (P. Feyerabend et al.), any research tradition or even its absence is justified by the result: the achieved scientific novelty. However, in the context of this particular work, according to the reviewer, the artistic technique of detective intrigue does not fully correspond to the research program and the article submitted for review will only benefit from strengthening scientific and methodological support. The author writes: "The object of our attention will be not only the painting itself, but also a number of preparatory sketches and sketches for the painting," simply making a formal logical mistake, presenting as an object not a single systemic whole, but a multitude. The author loses sight of the fact that not only a specific work of art can be an object of historical art criticism, but also an artistic process, which gives special value to the research presented by him by referring to the historical artistic process, to the work of the artist, removed for centuries from the time of turning to him research attention. Based on the analysis of archival epistolary sources, the author explains the reasons for the delay of the pensioner of the Imperial Academy of Arts, P. I. Sokolov, in presenting his report work, and also provides additional arguments arising from the context of contemporary artistic creation techniques analyzed by A. A. Karev. The high appreciation of the completed painting "Mercury and Argus" by the artist's contemporaries, noted by the author, indicates that the two-year delay (1776 instead of 1774) is justified precisely by artistic goals. From this follows the author's conclusion about the artistic value of the sketches associated with the artistic process of creating a picture. Thus, despite the inaccuracies in the definition of the object and subject of the study, as well as the lack of a clear articulation of the research problem, the author managed to reveal the subject of the study and present a result worthy of publication in a scientific journal. Nevertheless, the reviewer recommends that the author formalize the research program more specifically before the analytical part of the article (clarify the object and subject of the study, identify the problem under study, the goal and the scientific and cognitive tasks solved in the analytical part). In such an edition, the "detective intrigue" will dissipate, but the article as a whole will acquire a logical structure of narration about the results of scientific research. The research methodology is based on a productive synthesis of the historical and biographical method and the iconic analysis of pictorial images. The author strengthened the thematic selection of the studied scientific literature by historical-textual and comparative analysis of archival epistolary sources. The analyzed empirical material is well attributed and its explication into theoretical discourse is the strong side of the presented work. At the same time, as noted above, strengthening the scientific and methodological support of the narrative in the introductory section of the article will only enhance its scientific value. The author explains the relevance of addressing the research topic to the reader based on the opinion of A. A. Karev about the importance of the genre of historical painting in Russia in the second half of the XVIII century. for the formation of an easel painting. In this context, of course, it is extremely important to demonstrate that the artistic process of creating a painting was accompanied by sketches and sketches from nature, which gradually acquired their own unique artistic value. It is in this context, according to the reviewer, that the topic disclosed by the author is of interest to historical art criticism. The scientific novelty of the work, expressed in the explication of archival materials into theoretical discourse, their analysis and the author's reasoned judgments about the artistic value of sketches and sketches from nature made by P. I. Sokolov in the process of working on the painting "Mercury and Argus", deserves theoretical attention. The style of the text is scientific, although the reviewer draws attention to one inaccuracy: when attributing the work "P. I. Sokolov (1753-1791) "Mercury and Argus" (1776, GRM Zh4976)", an unencrypted abbreviation was used, which receives explanations only further along the text, and it should have been deciphered at the first mention. The structure of the article generally corresponds to the logic of presenting the results of scientific research, but as already mentioned, strengthening scientific and methodological support in the content of the introductory section can significantly improve the quality of the publication. The bibliography, taking into account the author's references to empirical material, sufficiently reveals the problematic area of research and is designed without gross violations of the requirements of the editorial board and GOST. At the same time, the reviewer notes that the author misses the opportunity to position the results of his research in a broader field of theoretical discourse, ignoring a brief review of foreign scientific literature over the past 3-5 years on a similar topic. Although this remark is purely advisory in nature and does not affect the overall positive assessment of the presented scientific result. Appealing to opponents is correct and courteous. The author does not focus on participation in theoretical discussions, although he declares his extraordinary position. The article, according to the reviewer, is of interest to the readership of the journal "Culture and Art" and after a little revision can be recommended for publication.

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In the journal "Culture and Art" the author presented his article "Mercury and Argus" by P.I. Sokolov: aesthetics of painting, search for an artistic image, perception by contemporaries", in which a study of an artistic work was conducted for compliance with the requirements of the direction of historical painting and academic methodology. The author proceeds in studying this issue from the fact that historical painting in Russia in the second half of the XVIII century became a special phenomenon in Russian art. It reflected the ideas of theoretical treatises of Western Europe, the aesthetic ideas of Russian enlighteners, which found their refraction and adaptation in an artistic image. As the author notes, imitation of models was the main requirement of academic methodology, which was embodied precisely in historical painting and sculpture and symbolized the birth of easel painting. As a methodological basis, the author uses an integrated approach, including general scientific methods of analysis and synthesis, as well as artistic analysis. The theoretical basis was the scientific works of such art historians as Babiyak V.V., Karev A.A., Pozharova M.A. and others. As an empirical material, the author used the painting itself, sketches for it, as well as archival materials containing the memoirs of contemporaries. Russian Russian Historical Painting The purpose of the study is to analyze the work of P.I. Sokolov (1753-1791) "Mercury and Argus" (1776, State Russian Museum Zh4976) as a reflection of the aesthetic credo of Russian historical painting of the second half of the XVIII century, as well as the search and embodiment of an artistic image. The subject of the study is not only the painting itself, but also a number of preparatory sketches and sketches for the painting. Unfortunately, there is no material in the article that allows us to draw a conclusion about the relevance of this study. The author has not done a bibliographic analysis of the problem under study, despite the extensive scientific discourse devoted to this issue. The author has not done an analysis of the scientific validity of the problem, which makes it difficult to make an assumption about the scientific novelty of this study. The author presents the requirements for a historical painter in the XVIII century, which were finally formulated in 1793 by I. F. Urvanov in the "Brief Guide to the knowledge of drawing and painting of a historical kind": he "must necessarily, as well as a poet, be a theologian, philosopher, subtle politician, skilful historian and hardworking examiner of antiquities". As noted by the author, in the second half of the XVIII century, work on a painting on a theme from history or mythology included a large systematic creative process, which, equally, included mastery of the art of drawing (preparatory sketches and drawings from nature), the ability to analyze the material and search for an artistic image (work on sketches of composition), as well as the ability to embody the best composition with the help of color and light (painting). Based on the study and analysis of the preliminary sketches made by P.I. Sokolov for his painting "Mercury and Argus", the author traces the process of transformation of the idea, images and compositional structure of the painting. P.I. Sokolov, from the author's point of view, has done a lot of systematic work on the search for an artistic image, guided, among other things, by generally accepted academic practice. The painting "Mercury and Argus" is an excellent example of a work written in the best traditions of classicism. The author states that the process of working on the canvas was based on the principles of the academic education system. The execution of drawings from nature, sketches of individual parts and fragments of the future composition, became the basis for the subsequent search for the best image in the historical picture. The author of the article notes that the artist fulfilled all the necessary academic requirements and canons, which allowed him to create a reference work: a compositional solution, gradation of many shades and semitones, harmony of warm and cold, contrast and distribution of the illumination level of objects, which together contributed to the formation of a spatial environment on the canvas and emphasized the three-dimensional construction of the composition. In conclusion, the author presents the conclusions of the study, including all the key provisions of the presented material. It seems that the author in his material touched upon relevant and interesting issues for modern socio-humanitarian knowledge, choosing a topic for analysis, consideration of which in scientific research discourse will entail certain changes in the established approaches and directions of analysis of the problem addressed in the presented article. The results obtained allow us to assert that the study of Russian historical painting is of undoubted theoretical and practical cultural and art criticism interest and can serve as a source of further research. The material presented in the work has a clear, logically structured structure that contributes to a more complete assimilation of the material. An adequate choice of methodological base also contributes to this. However, the bibliographic list of the study consists of 14 sources, which is sufficient for generalization and analysis of scientific discourse on the subject under study. The author fulfilled his goal, received certain scientific results that allowed him to summarize the material. It should be noted that the article may be of interest to readers and deserves to be published in a reputable scientific publication after these shortcomings have been eliminated.