demon-downcast

Mikhail Vrubel, Demon Downcast, 1902. 139 x 387 cm. Oil on canvas. Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.

Vrubel produced a number of paintings and sculptures based on Mikhail Lermontov's poem Demon (1829-1839, Russian: Демон), set in the Caucasus Mountains and telling the story of the eponymous character—a troubled wandering demon who has fallen in love with the beautiful Georgian princess Tamara. Tamara sees in him, “not a demon nor an angel but a tortured soul,” though their love proves tragic. This is the most haunting image from the series.

Vrubel’s return to demonic themes, at the start of the 1900s, can be seen as a milestone in his decline from mental illness.