"All the more astonishing was the discovery the following day of a rosy-cheeked Virgin Mary that hung above the double bed of Pani Eliza, the old priest’s housekeeper. Both canvases bore the marks of the same brush. The full face of the Virgin Mary was the portrait of Pani Eliza. And at this point I was close to solving the riddle of the Novograd icons. My guess led me into Pani Eliza’s kitchen, where on fragrant evenings the shades of old feudal Poland assembled, the crazy painter presiding over them. But was he crazy, this Pan Apolek who had peopled with angels the outskirts of town and raised the lame convert Yanek to sainthood?"
'Pan Apolek', from Red Cavalry (Isaak Babel)
An art historian enters art history, commissioning a heart by the name of Vrubel to restore the frescoes of St Cyril’s Church, Kyiv.
In the house of the historian young Vrubel sleeps, waking at the feet of the historian’s educated wife, Emilia.
Mother of Olga, and more, she does not share the intensity she reads in his letters, and Vrubel is sent to Venice by her burning husband. Pan Vrubel must heed the influence of the Old Masters!
Heart heeds heart and returns to Kyiv where he etches his surface; blood escapes and slows the drowning. He leaves to bury his father, who visits the next day, so alive, in the absence of his son.
Odessa calls, Moscow, Italy, St Petersburg, and soon another life. He marries a swan, his eyes cloud and a daemon takes heart.
There he stands in 1910, framed in a window, open to imagined scenes of the cold Saint Petersburg night before him. The icy Neva melts in the warmth of lilac summers and feathered dancers swirl in the dazzle of the opera’s golden light, spinning until raw, mottled bodies collapse onto the scratching plumage molten below.
Emilia & Olga Virgin Mary & Jesus