"Testing the strength of Jan Usmar" belongs to the brush of Grigory Ugryumov, known for his historical paintings. It was thanks to this work that the artist was awarded the title of academician. Today this bright and dynamic canvas is part of the collection of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
The plot is based on one of the stories of the "Tale of Bygone Years" affecting the events of 992. Kiev was besieged by nomads, and the fate of the then capital of Russia was to be decided by the duel between the best soldiers of the enemy armies. Wanting to be honored to fight the enemy’s warrior, the tanner’s son, Jan Usmar, arranged a demonstration battle with an angry bull. The warrior managed to stop the animal on the run, tearing at the same time a piece of the skin. The subsequent battle with the Pechenegs was marked by the victory of the army, then ruling then Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich.
This is not the first time that Grigory Ivanovich has addressed a national-patriotic theme in his work. It is worth noting, in general, the artist’s zeal for a reliable depiction of details. Skillfully drawn armor and weapons of warriors, residents' clothes are accurately recreated on the canvas. However, in the warrior’s ammunition, the ancient history and echoes of the Roman era can be traced to the right. This is due to the traditions of the masters of the Academy of Arts, referring to the monuments of the classical past when writing historical scenes. In addition, the period of the creation of the picture was marked not by the best time for archeology, and the master simply did not have the opportunity to study in detail the outfits and images of ancient Rusichs.
The prevalence of ancient traditions, as one of the main components of classicism, fully embodies the figure of Jan Usmar. Ugryumov painted the image of the main character from Tatar Yuzei, who was athletically complex and stood out with perfect muscles. The master does not hide the powerful figure of Jan, but only emphasizes with a red cloth, like a flame wrapping around a warrior’s camp and hips.
All power and dynamics are brilliantly transmitted thanks to a clearly built composition of the main acting figures. Jan Usmar balances the impressive carcass of a bull tearing from his hands. The prince, sitting at a distance, stood up slightly, captured by the unfolding battle, and hurrying to greet his warrior. In the background, in anticipation of another decisive battle with the Pechenegs, combatants wave their spears.