“Mohammed on Mount Hira,” Nicholas Roerich – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Mohammed on Mount Hira – Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich. 1925. Tempera, canvas. 73.8 x 116.9 cm
The presented picture is included in the famous cycle of Nicholas Roerich "Banners of the East", which he created by making an amazingly complex and voluminous journey through the East. In addition to Mohammed, in this series of works, the artist recalled Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Yenno Guyo Dia, Nagarjuna, Lao Tzu and other famous historical figures. The series serves as a visual embodiment of Roerich’s attempt to comprehend the essence of outstanding people, as well as the spirit of the people to which they belonged.

Mohammed is a central person in Islam. It was he who gave the Qur’an to the world, having received a revelation from Allah. Roerich decided to devote his painting to history when Mohammed saw angel Djibril (Gabriel) at Mount Hira. In a travel diary, Roerich described the purpose of the work: an angel bestows on Mohammed truth and tells him that he is destined for the role of the messenger of God.

At first, Roerich made a sketch in pencil, where the main element was puffs of smoke, from which a weightless, unsteady figure of Gabriel emerges. This is what became the main grain of the finished canvas – an angel indicating the hero’s chosenness. Roerich depicts Mohammed with his back to the viewer and this is not an artistic device, but a tribute to the Islamic religion, which prohibits portraying the face of the Prophet.

The landscape attracts attention with its expressiveness: like an abundance of rocks, mountain ledges, and here you can clearly feel the ringing silence. As if everything had stopped, understanding the fatefulness of what was happening.

The color of the picture is warm, dominated by delicate pink tones, sunny yellow. The author works with large thick color spots. It is known that, from a certain moment, Roerich refused oil paint, preferring tempera, because the latter has greater brightness and does not darken over time.

Roerich’s technique is transparent and understandable – clear lines without reflexive transitions, sweeping, filled smear without jerking. The work is revealed to the viewer with all the clarity of design, erasing the temporal, religious and cultural boundaries.

It was in the East that Roerich found confirmation of his main idea of ​​the inextricable connection of all mankind. He rejected the conventional wisdom about the isolation, solitude and even detachment of the East and Asia. To talk about the world that captivated him so much, to explain that everything is interconnected, Roerich tried the only way he could – through art. And he did a lot. Don’t we, representatives of the Christian faith, look with interest and concern at Mohammed, who receives a sacred message from God: "Mohammed – you are the messenger of God!"…"

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