1866, Hrodno - 1924, Paris

Terror Antiquus


  • oil on canvas. 250 x 270
  • Ж-8135

  • Received in 1965

In 1907, Léon Bakst visited Greece in the company of Valentin Serov, sketching the country’s ancient monuments and Mediterranean nature and reading the works of her ancient philosophers and writers. This helped to form an image of Greece and Greek culture in his imagination, one both concrete and simultaneously abstract. This duality can be seen in Terror Antiquus, in which the artist uses symbols to express the apocalyptic nature of the modern age. He depicts the destruction of an ancient city and its inhabitants. Bakst scrupulously reproduces a number of ancient edifices — the Lion Gate in Mycenæ, the ruins of the palace at Tiryns, and the Athenian Acropolis. The natural landscape in the picture is a generalisation and also reflects Bakst’s study of Hellenic geography. The image of the Archaic kore presiding over the chaos and personifying the inexorable force of human fate is equally concrete and just as abstract. Although the critics found many faults in Terror Antiquus, Bakst’s painting enjoyed great success at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. It was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Brussels in 1910. Russian Museum: From Icons to the Modern Times. Palace Editions, St Petersburg, 2015. P. 256.

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