Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan, 1885
I love this painting so much.
Just some background stuff, Ivan the Terrible was the Tsar of Russia for most of the 16th Century. In I think 1581, he caught his daughter-in-law wearing ‘immodest clothing in front of everyone’ and struck her. She was apparently pregnant and she may or may not have had a miscarriage because of it.
Ivan’s son and the girl’s husband, also named Ivan after his father, hears about it and gets into a really heated argument with his father that ends with Ivan the Terrible taking a swing at his son with his pointed staff. It’s said that he immediately fell down and kissed his son’s face, pressing his hands against his left temple to try to stop the bleeding. He famously screamed “May I be damned! I’ve killed my son! I’ve killed my son!” His son briefly regained consciousness and his last words were “I die as a devoted son and most humble servant.”
I love all the details. I love the pointed staff lying on the ground and the signs of a fight with the tossed over chair, disturbed carpet, and the door wide open. I love the single tear on Ivan’s face and their position on the floor. This is a really gorgeous but raw depiction of one of the darkest moments in an incredible man’s life. I wish there were more historical paintings like this.
I’ve yet to see any other image depict the look of horrific realization and regret as well as this painting does. It really is just stunning.