Ilya Repin's "Ivan the Terrible and His Young Son Ivan" 1885

Originally published at:


“Don’t talk to me or my son, ever again.”

Yep, Repin was awesome. I prefer his They Did Not Expect Him but that’s a quieter painting that requires more art historical background.

Even better is Mikhail Vrubel. Vrubel is just awesome.

And Pavel Filonov.__

The painting is also known in Russia as "Ivan the Terrible Kills His Son"
There’s also a (probably never-ending) debate as to whether the event actually took place as painted.

According to the Russian wiki page on Prince Ivan (I looked; this detail isn’t present in the English version of the page), Antonio Possevino, the papal legate to Moscow during the time, recorded a version of the events that was considered to be the most likely by knyaz’ Mikhail Shcherbatov (an accomplished historian during the 1770s-80s)

A quick translation of Possevino’s retelling:

Ivan the king walked in upon the prince’s third wife lying on a bench in her undergarments, pregnant and not expecting anyone to wander in. She rose to greet him but he was already in a fury~ and beat her with his scepter so severely that she miscarried her son the next night.

During this beating, Ivan the prince ran in and pleaded with his father to stop the beating of his wife. This drew the king’s anger and beatings upon the prince, who was severely wounded in the head, close to the temple. Prior to this, the prince hotly reproached his father as follows:

“You’ve confined my first wife to a monastery for no reason, and done the same with my second, and now are beating my third one so as to kill the son she carries in her womb.”

Having wounded his son, the father immediately fell into deep regret and summoned healers from Moscow, along with Andrey Shchekalov and Nikita Romanovich~~, so that all were readily at hand. On the fifth day, the son died and in universal sorrow was transported to Moscow.

As part of the ongoing historical debate, the bodies of both the king and the prince were exhumed in 1963 and subjected to forensic examinations. The prince’s body was found to contain elevated concentrations of lead, arsenic, and mercury, the latter at 32 times(!) the acceptable levels.~~~

The Kremlin’s chief archaeologist, T. D. Panova, wrote at the time “the reasons for such elevated levels (to put it mildly) of mercury, arsenic – and yes, lead – can only be guessed at.”

The bones of the prince’s skull had degraded in the intervening time to such a degree that anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov, who had produced portrait sculptures of Ivan the Terrible and Feodor I, was unable to produce a reconstruction of the prince’s skull.

~ it’s not stated, but I presume because of her indecent appearance and/or not rising in the presence of the king

~~ senior advisors, both involved in negotiations with Possevino, so he would have known them well. Romanovich was later the founder of the Romanov royal dynasty


Here’s the whole image with the sceptre that was used to kill his son. It was cropped out of that wiki image for some reason.

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another seminal Repin:

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Eyes of madness.




Yes and there will be a painting of him eating his own son(s) soon enough.

Not quite. Everybody makes that face before they deepthroat a microphone.

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