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As in one picture about a little boy fit the cruelty and injustice of the world: “Savoyard” Perov

At the first glance at this picture, the most tender and sentimental feelings will surely arise. Especially this extinct and it’s too grown-up view of the boys… so I want to feel sorry for the little hero, be sure to help him and protect him from life’s misfortunes. Vasily Perov managed to create a compassionate plot of the picture that he wrote during his Paris trip.

Vasily Perov is the illegitimate son of the Tobolsk Prosecutor, a representative of the ancient Baltic noble family of Baron G. K. von Kridener (Krydener). Although the marriage was concluded after the birth of the boy, the father’s last name was never received. The future artist for a long time was listed in documents as Vasiliev, by the name of the godfather. The name Perov came from the nickname given to the boy by his teacher for his elegant handwriting.

In 1862, the Academy of arts awarded Vasily Perov a gold medal and the right to a paid trip abroad. During this period, he visited Western Europe, several German cities, and Paris. In addition, Perov visited many museums in Berlin, Dresden and Paris and studied the works of old masters. Yes, the artist worked hard and hard, but in a foreign country, the inspiration seemed to have left him. Each stroke was difficult. Perov was bored abroad. There is even a letter in which he appeals to the Academy with a request for permission to return early:
“I dare to ask the Council for permission to return to Russia. The reasons for asking me to do this, I will try to imagine here: having lived abroad for almost two years and, despite all my desire, I could not execute a single picture that would be satisfactory – ignorance of the character and moral life of the people makes it impossible to complete any of my works… I find it less useful to devote a few years to the study of a foreign country than to study and develop, if possible, the innumerable richness of subjects, both of the urban and rural life of our Fatherland. I am referring to several stories from Russian life that I would perform with love and sympathy and, I hope, more successfully than from the life of a people I know little about…”.

Russia was necessary to him for inspiration, for the implementation of ideas, for life. At the same time, being far from home, the artist tried to study local customs and customs. He often goes to fairs and festivals. During his foreign practice, the artist masters the picturesque tone that gives his works a deep emotional and psychological expressiveness, they disappear the rigidity of contours, isolation of figures and objects characteristic of early works. Perov portrays street heroes and squares, organ grinders and traveling jugglers, acrobats and dancers, and more…he was able to portray a deeply emotional image of Savoyard.

Who is Savoyard?
During the Parisian period, Perov creates images of the destitute and oppressed, trying to attract public attention to them and arouse warm sympathy for them. During one of these street works, the artist caught sight of a small Savoyard.
Savoyars — children of the poor, whose parents in the years of famine sent to rich Germany to wander and earn a living, showing tricks with trained animals who can guess, pulling out notes with “happiness”. Savoyards were liked by ladies who wanted to get a “note of happiness” from a street urchin, but in payment for this “happiness” young tramps received only small coins thrown out of the window. But the life of the savoyards, like any street urchins, was not easy: they lived on the streets, often joined in gangs or joined a Gypsy camp. On behalf of Savoyard performed Beethoven’s song on Goethe’s poems “Groundhog”.

In 1805, Ludwig van Beethoven set poems to music. And the classic song “Groundhog” was born (FR. Marmotte), which we know in several versions of the translation. Here is one of them:
I wandered through different countries
And my Groundhog is with me,
And I was gay and happy,
And my marmot with me!
And my always, and my everywhere,
And my Groundhog is with me.
And my always, and my everywhere,
And my Groundhog is with me.
Savoyars were loved to depict artists, they can be found in the paintings of such painters of the XVIII-XIX centuries as A. Watteau, A. van Dyck, V. M. H. Leibl, J.E. Freeman, I. Johnson, And K. E. Makovsky. One of the most touching paintings of Savoyard is, of course, the work of the Russian painter Perov.

Perov’s Painting
Vasily Perov’s canvas depicts life itself in all its unsightly, cruel truth: a homeless boy abandoned in a huge city and left to his own devices. The artist depicted a boy in a moment of extreme fatigue, with a haggard, grown-up, much-seen face like an old man. On his forehead (this is the brightest spot in the picture, by the way) you can read a story about a difficult fate. The tramp’s appearance was painstakingly painted: frayed trousers, worn shoes, faded eyes, dirty hands and hair. The hat, intended more for collecting grace, is empty – another sad sign in the current tragedy. All this makes the viewer’s heart break with sympathy and pain for the fate of the boy in a cruel world.

The artist managed to convey the extreme degree of exhaustion of the child, the difficult fate and tragedy of life itself. The background is expertly rendered with the plot in mind: a dark background and scuffed walls. Powerful coatings and high ceilings emphasize the fragility and defenselessness of the Savoyard. In his hands is a broken flute-the result of a collision with local competitors for a place on the street. The boy’s faithful friend, the Groundhog, hungry,with tousled hair and emaciated no less than the owner, clings to the boy to keep warm. He is his faithful companion, the only living being who shares the boy’s troubled life.

Thus, Vasily Perov – a significant figure in the painting of the XIX century-managed to create a deeply emotional image of a boy-tramp. The image of the Savoyard boy in the picture, which exposes the level of poverty in society and the social problem of child labor, is filled with a poignant sadness. Perov’s little Savoyard told a big story about the injustice and cruelty of the modern world. Will the society be able to accept the author’s message? Will people be able to revive their callous hearts at the sight of children’s suffering? I really hope that in the coming years, painting will be called upon to depict the beautiful, positive, praiseworthy, and sad and dark subjects will not have a place.

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