In 1880 Vasnetsov received an order from patron Savva Mamontov to write three pictures for the decoration of the station of the Donetsk railway. The artist, whose work is inextricably linked with bylinas, legends and fairy tales, and this time stopped the choice of fairy-tale subjects. Soon the pictures “Carpet-plane”, “Battle of the Scythians with Slavs” and “Three queens of the underground kingdom” were ready.
The painting “Three Queens…” was written last and was intended to decorate the Cabinet of the Railroad Administration. According to the master’s plan, the picture was to become the personification of the untold wealth stored in the land of Donbass. The embodiment of these treasures became the heroines of the folk tale – the underground princesses. According to their tale there were only two – princesses of Gold and Precious stones. But for the sake of industrialists, the artist also wrote the third – the Coal Princess.
Three girls, shining with the dazzling beauty of their faces and costumes, and became the main characters of the picture. In the center is the princess Gemstone. Majestic and proud, she stands with her head held high, demonstrating her noble origins. Her dress is unutterably beautiful: an expensive dress embroidered with bizarre ornaments captures a look, fascinating with emerald, pink, turquoise, red and yellow glows of precious stones that make up the pattern. Heavy beads on the chest and a crown of gems on the head complement the image of the keeper of the underground treasure. Her face is not inferior to the beauty of the stones: scarlet lips, burning blush and sable eyebrows – a true princess.
To the left of the queen Precious stones are worth as the majestic princess of Gold, which is easy to recognize by the sparkling golden garment. An intricate pattern of gilded fabric is complemented by a scatter of gems that adorn the sleeves, buttons and hem dresses. The gleam of precious stones shines and the crown-kokoshnik on the regal head, and beads on the neck of the queen. But her beautiful face is sad and sad, her longing is hidden in her lowered eyes.
Somewhat aside from the majestic sisters the viewer will see the timid Carbon Princess. In her outfit there is no pretentiousness and magnificent royalty, as there is no arrogance in her face. A modest, but elegant black brocade dress, beautiful black hair, flowing freely over his shoulders, open, feeble hands, sadness on a snow-white face – this created Vasnetsov the youngest of princes. Standing out against the background of sisters with its simplicity and modesty, it seems more sweet, native, intimate and human.
The beautiful princesses are saddened. And the reason for their sadness can be seen here, on the canvas. In the lower right corner, the artist wrote two brothers, Ivan Tsarevich, the hero of a fairy tale that inspired the artist to create a picture. According to the plot, the princes betrayed their brother: after kidnapping the underground beauties and getting their mother out, they cut the rope and left it to die under the earth. In their hands, you can see both the rope and the knife with which it was cut off. Both brothers are shown at the moment when they, amazed by the beauty and the article of the priests, bowed to them in a prostration in a prostration.
Monumentality gives the picture and the red sunset sky, and clumps of black rocks. A contrasting combination of sky and earth, at the intersection of which the abducted girls are shown, underscores their anxiety and excitement.
Despite the beauty of the canvas, the railwaymen refused to buy a picture, referring to a fabulous plot of an alien industry. As a result, the work of the great artist was acquired by the collector and philanthropist I. Tereshchenko.