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The artist collected the picture in parts for several long years, recording every moment of his stay in Greece and acquaintance with the era of Antiquity. Therefore, on the canvas, despising the spatiotemporal framework, the monuments dating back to the ancient Aegean culture of the 13th century BC coexist. e., and the architectural ensembles of Classical Greece.
The compositional center of the canvas is a statue of a stone Aphrodite with a dove in her hands, the still smile of which contrasts with the image of the death of civilization in the background. The viewer observes this, being as if on some kind of hill, while Aphrodite is closest to him.
By "ancient horror" the pagans understood the nightmare of human existence, which is always controlled by the incomprehensible Rock. According to Vyacheslav Ivanov, the use of the divine image was to demonstrate that nothing, including venerable idols, in the minds of the pagan could not resist the chaos of existence. Only Fate (or Chaos) is able to live forever. It is possible to interpret the picture in a more historically specific context.
Since the idea of the work was born during the Russian Revolution, it can be assumed that the use of the image of Chaos helped to illustrate the inevitability of the death of the whole old life on the eve of the cardinal changes that people faced at the beginning of the twentieth century. There is also a third interpretation, according to which Aphrodite symbolizes the eternity of art and its universal essence.
In 1909, the painting was shown at an exhibition in Paris, and a year later it was already awarded a gold medal in Brussels. “Ancient Horror” was destined to become a landmark work of art in many respects - first of all, for Bakst himself, who, despite the desire to once again write such a canvas, almost never returned to painting and created only theatrical scenery. In addition, the painting laid bare yet another path for the development of 1910s art - neoclassicism, the subsequent popularity of which made it jokingly called a chronic "disease" of culture.
David Lorenzo Bernini