Brig “Mercury” attacked by 2 Turkish ships, Aivazovsky

"Brig “Mercury” attacked by 2 Turkish ships, Aivazovsky

Description of the picture:

Brig “Mercury” – Aivazovsky. 1892. Oil on canvas. Two hundred and twenty-one x three hundred and thirty-nine cm
The painting was painted much later than the events it describes. It is dedicated to the battle during the Russian-Turkish war, when a small and slow-moving brig “Mercury” distinguished itself with its heroic behavior.

From afar, the canvas can be mistaken for a peaceful seascape with 3 beautiful woody ships, almost flying at full sail along a not very measured, but not rough sea. In fact, not everything is so safe and quiet.

The scene of the action impresses with its own monumentality: two large Turkish ship of the line literally clamped in a vice seemingly against their very small and defenseless brig. It would seem that the situation is stalemate and Mercury is doomed. But the crew decided to give a fight and came out of it the winner – both the Turkish flagship and the 2nd large ship lost their masts, were unable to maneuver and were obliged to shamefully leave the battlefield. This is how a small sailboat, lagging behind its own squadron, showed the heroic nature of Russian sailors – they die, but do not surrender.

The canvas reflects the most climax of the naval drama. “Mercury” from both sides stormed the enemy ships, and he delivers cannon strikes in response to them. In the distance, the ghostly silhouettes of the squadron are shown. Anxiety of action is emphasized by languid black thunderclouds and the restless sea, as if worried because of the action.

No need to say how amazingly and subtly the master and the sea and the sky are portrayed. The whole picture simply breathes freshness of the sea, despite the general tragedy of the situation. In the end, the sea is eternal, in its own time it has seen different battles and is completely phlegmatic to small and huge human tragedies. And on the “Mercury”, which by all standards should be sunk by enemy ships, only four Russian sailors were killed."

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