Easter Chimes Awaken Nature by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
oil on canvas, 1896
Alphonse Mucha: The Celebration of Svantovit - When Gods Are at War, Salvation is in the Art (Slavnost Svantovitova - Když jsou bohové ve válce, pak je umění spásou) 1912
Oil and Egg Tempera on Canvas (8,10 x 6,10 m)
Part 2 (out of 20) of the Slav Epic (the rest will eventually be posted and you can find it in this link) by Alphonse Mucha.
This painting depicts the celebration of autumn harvest in honour of Svantovit. Svantovit, god of war and harvest (there were numerous harvest gods in Slavic mythology) was one of the most important Slavic gods whose cult was mostly spread by very influential Rani tribe. The Rani tribe lived mostly on German island Rügen (north Germany, in Baltic sea). The cult of Svantovit was the last organized cult of Slavic religion.
The celebration is happening in Arkona which was the capital of Rügen region. In the lower part of the painting we can see a crowd of pilgrims who came to Arkona to celebrate Svantovit and the end of successful year. Mucha depicts Arkona as a great and mythical city which symbolizes the greatness and importance of Slavic tribes. The most important of the pilgrims is a woman holding a child symbolizing Madonna.
On the upper left corner we can see Scandinavian invaders led by Thor and his wolves as harbingers of the destruction of Arkona and the forced christianization of Slavic population which happened in 1168 at the hands of Danish army.
We can see Svantovit (though his face remains hidden) himself in the right side of the painting supporting the dying young soldier and taking the soldier’s sword. The god himself will fight on the side of the Slavs and ensure they will survive.
The three musicians in front of the horse are bringing news about the invasion and are trying to warn the celebrating people before it’s too late which they don’t manage because there is no one to listen to them.
Another part we might notice is the figure of the young man holding a knife because the colors with which he’s painted is darker and more blue than the rest. The man is a woodcarver, a disillusioned artist being consoled by his muse.
I haven’t been able to find an explanation for the trio of men with their hands tied together in the upper middle part of the painting. I’m explaining them to myself as one of the first Slavs that Germanic tribes enslaved. The man in the middle is captured, yet still proud.
The sunset symbolizes the impending fall of the Slavs from and the dark years that will follow for many slavic tribes.