Obama and Putin portrayed in frescoes on church in Belarus
Interesting wall paintings have appeared in the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk. In the image, angels are playing on a bass-guitar and saxophone, and in addition to biblical characters, figures in military camouflage and men in business suits are also portrayed.
But it is namely the worship of the Magi of that attracts the most attention here. In front of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, people are paying homage: people that resemble Vladimir Putin, and former US president Barack Obama and the Dali Lama.
“For me, the main leitmotif in art and religion is how much [it] reflects and keeps up with reality which is constantly changing,” the artist of the fresco Vladimir Kondrusevich told Evroradio.
“It’s not some story of a mythological character which happened 2 000 years ago. It is what is happening now. ‘The adoration of the Magi and the poor’ is how we named the fresco, meaning the strong [people] of this world and those who are standing on the last rung of the social ladder. And then a large field for interpretations. And here’s something else: if you remember, the gifts were brought by three Magi: Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior, who are often shown as representatives of different races: black, white and yellow. For that reason these figures were very appropriate.”
According to the artist, the idea to make classical biblical subjects more modern was born thanks to the shape of the chapel itself. This a former ‘House of Culture’, and for that reason classical frescoes would look out of place. Later, the artist decided what details to add and what figures to put in it with the help of a priest, Vyacheslav Bork.
Vladimir Kondrusevich does not consider himself the investor of the piece.
“I don’t see anything bad in the fact that there is a tractor and other modern things [in the image]. You can take a look at the works of El Greco, who drew angels with violins and violoncellos. Those were new instruments for the time, they also jumped out at you, and seemed revolutionary.
“Or take Bruegel, who drew the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ and placed it in his relatively modern Dutch village. This all takes place in a setting that is obviously not biblical. That is to say, we are not the first to actualize biblical scenes in such a manner.”
Vladimir Kondrusevich has painted seven chapels already, and in many of them he made separate frescoes, for example, only above the alter. But to add present-day subjects into classical biblical ones doesn’t always work: it depends on the building, and on the priests.
However, the parish of St. Anthony of Padua Church is happy with the artist’s work.
“Those that come up to me are thrilled,” admits Vladimir Kondrusevich. Those that don’t like it stay silent and don’t want to speak with me. So I here mostly positive reactions. There are people who say that the stylistics of religious buildings put them off, and that’s why they see no connection with reality. But here, they say, it’s easier for them to breathe. I’ve also had such reactions.”