This delightful piece was completed in 1914 and is one of the largest items in the series, standing at over eight metres wide, by six metres tall. Mucha would make use of these huge canvases in order to allow him to include many figures across some of the scenes, particularly where battle scenes were used. This had the downside, however, of extending the work required substantially, and so it would be nearly two decades before the twenty paintings were finally complete. Mucha refused to cut corners in order to speed up the process and achieved a remarkable consistency across this display of work. In recent years there have been attempts to move the paintings to Prague in order to allow more people to see these works in person, but at the time of writing there was still some resistance to this idea in some influential quarters.
The artist did not produce the series in the order that it is now displayed, and actually this painting was one of the first that he completed. It was perhaps that he worked on ideas freshest in his mind first and took advantage of bouts of enthusiasm and drive to slowly fill in the gaps of Slavic history one by one. The painting captures a moment of reform within Russia when Tsar Alexander II passed legislation in order to bring a greater freedom to the poorer parts of society. At that time the country was in poverty, yet still painted itself to its neightbours as a beacon of success and prosperity. Mucha himself visited then ation in 1913 and was shocked to find this reality and that must have influenced the painting that we find in front of us here. The artist would actually travel to several different locations which can be found within the Slav Epic as a means to better understanding the events and atmosphere around these different places.
The two buildings captured within this painting are St Basil's cathedral and the Kremlin, making the location of this work immediately obvious. There is a stunning beauty to the style of architecture found within Moscow which has inspired artists for many centuries, both from across Russia but also abroad. The artist would often implement a fairly hazy fog-like atmosphere which made elements less clear but also helped to build up a feeling of one being there at the time of the event itself. Of all the figures included in the bottom half of this painting, most are there purely in a supportive sense but some of the more detailed figures closest to us are actually purposely there to deliver symbolic meaning, which in this case is a feeling of anxiety and confusion around what the future held for these people.