The Snow Maiden by Vasily Grigoryevich Perov - 1879 Tretyakov Gallery The Snow Maiden by Vasily Grigoryevich Perov - 1879 Tretyakov Gallery

The Snow Maiden

oil on paper •
  • Vasily Grigoryevich Perov - January 2, 1834 - 10 June 1882 Vasily Grigoryevich Perov 1879

This painting depicts a Russian fairy tale character called the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka). A girl made of snow, she’s the daughter of spirits Spring Beauty and Ded Moroz (Old Man Frost), but she falls in love and wants to live as a human. There are different versions of her tale, but all end with her melting. This painting is one of several that Perov made illustrating this scene. All depict this mythical creature quite convincingly.

The artist, Vasily Grigoryevich Perov (1834-1882), was a Russian realist. He was very concerned about social issues, and he painted detailed scenes of harsh, frigid Russian peasant life. He reminds me of a Russian Gustave Courbet. He also painted portraits of Russian literary figures, including Alexander Ostrovsky and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The Snow Maiden has inspired many different kinds of artists. In 1872, Ostrovsky wrote a play based on the Snow Maiden legend, with music by Tchaikovsky. Marius Petipa choreographed a ballet adaptation in 1878, the year before this painting, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composed an opera about the Snow Maiden in 1880-1881. More recently, there have been several films about her, as well as revivals of the ballet and opera.

- Alexandra Kiely

When it comes to Russian fairy tales, we suggest you read the article about another Russian painter- Wassily Kandinsky and the colorful worlds of his canvases immersed in the ethereal atmosphere of Russian folktales.