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Painted in 1867, the picture demonstrates the everyday urban scene of tsarist times: a drowned girl caught from the river, and a city girl, guarding her dead body. A middle-aged man smokes a pipe and seems immersed in his own thoughts, completely indifferent to what happened to the girl. However, there is something in this picture that takes it beyond the strictly domestic genre. Something that makes you again mentally return to this plot and think: why does the drowned woman seem more alive than the person sitting next to her?
In the scene depicted, you can see three main characters: a dead girl, a middle-aged city woman and the outlines of the city behind them. The characters are combined into a single whole using a set of expressive means by which the artist expressed his idea.
The girl looks as if she was freed from a heavy burden, a difficult fate, something that tormented her during her lifetime. Her posture expresses relaxation and almost soaring in the air - this is evidenced by disheveled long hair, the abundance of space around the lying figure and the location away from the visual center of the picture.
City - on the contrary, as if enclosed in a rectangular frame, organically in its movements and capabilities. This is a typical servant, acting strictly by order of a superior and not having the desire to act in his own way. Maybe he is sorry for the girl, but apparently he does not show this in any way. It is also possible that his feelings have long turned into official reactions and were replaced by indifference.
The third character - the city in the background - is shrouded in morning fog, a flock of birds flies over the expanse of water. And the drowned woman is also depicted free, like a bird. It is known that during the artist’s life, suicide was considered a sin and condemned. Thus, depicting a drowned girl calm and free, the author of the picture could express his empathy.