Mikhail Vrubel

Veronica pic 1

10th March 2020

This Lenten season can be difficult for those with anxiety or those whose temptation is to self-criticize. As someone who struggles with these feelings, the painting that first came to mind for my contribution to the Lent blog was “The Demon Seated” by Mikhail Vrubel (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Vrubel). Vrubel’s masterpiece depicts the Demon from the famous Romantic poem by Lermontov: a lonely, tortured soul. The painting shows a seated, half naked figure whose ethereal face and melancholy pose are in contrast with his powerful body and clasped hands.

Veronica pic 2

Vrubel’s second full colour piece on the subject, “The Demon Downcast” (1902) was famously altered when the artist could not stop working on the painting, even as it stood on display. Critics claimed the eyes and face were ruined by his inability to stop seeking perfection.

This reminds me of God’s message for me during Lent—that picking at yourself and tearing your accomplishments apart out of fear, anxiety, or shame DOES NOT represent what Lent is all about. Lent is a time for self reflection, but not an excuse to wallow in one’s shortcomings. We cannot always see ourselves for the masterpieces we are, but God does. Standing back from these paintings one sees representations of lost love, a figure yearning for purity, and rich floral motifs—but Vrubel mainly saw his mistakes. We may look at ourselves this same way, but religion and God should not be our tools to do so. These paintings remind me to forgive myself and accept my imperfections as part of God’s plan.

Veronica Wilson

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