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2016, canvas, oil, 100 X 80 cm.
Ivan Illich Skoropadsky was the hetman of Left-Bank Ukraine from 1708 to 1722. Born in Uman, he moved to Left-Bank Ukraine in 1674, where he began his career, serving as a military chancellor in the hetman government and proceeded to later become chancellor of the Chernihiv regiment, general standard-bearer, general osaul (military senior officer), and colonel of the Starodub regiment. He fought against the Turks and Tatars in the Russo-Turkish war of 1676–81 and participated in the Crimean campaigns of 1687 and 1689.
The Hetmanate life, rife with internal conflicts among the Cossack starshyna and constant interference by the Muscovite government into internal affairs of the Cossack state, conditioned Skoropadsky to have acquired such character traits as cautiousness, self restraint, ability to adjust to circumstances, and a refined diplomatic skill. Nevertheless, Skoropadsky was a man of strictly conservative views—a patriot, no doubt—he used to be close to Ivan Mazepa and empathized with his cause.
After Mazepa’s alliance with King Charles XII of Sweden, Tsar Peter I arranged for the 62-year-old Skoropadsky to be elected hetman at the Cossack officers’ council in Hlukhiv on 6 November 1708. So as to exercise strict control over the activities of the hetman and his officers, the Muscovite monarch assigned supervisory responsibilities to Andrei Izmailov, a new resident minister of the Cossack state. Preparing for a decisive battle against the Swedish army, Skoropadsky failed to prevent Tsar Peter I from destroying the Chortomlyk Sich. In the Battle of Poltava (1709), Hetman Skoropadsky and his Cossacks fought under general command of the Muscovite army. Simultaneously, many times the hetman appealed to the tsar seeking to improve conditions for the Hetmanate population and asking to rehabilitate Mazepa’s officers, who had previously sided with Charles XII of Sweden and were now returning from exile.
During his hetmancy, Skoropadsky became the richest landowner in the Cossack state. He was among the first Ukrainian hetmans to begin issuing universals intended to legalize the corvée system and sanction punishment of common people by beating and arrest, if they complained against the nobility. At the same time, Ivan Skoropadsky and his wife Anastasiia Markivna were dedicated life patrons of the Orthodox Church. In his effort to facilitate the supervision of the hetman’s government, in May 1722 Peter I took a decision to establish the Little Russian Collegium. This decision of the Muscovite tsar precipitated Hetman Skoropadsky’s death.
He died in Hlukhiv in July 1722 and was buried in a family crypt in Hamaliivka at St. Kharlampii’s Monastery.
History of painting the Ivan Skoropadsky portrait
I painted my first portrait of Ivan Skoropadsky in 2013. As there seemed to exist many portraits of him created during his life, then I had no need to study in detail the iconography of his image. But when in 2017 I began to consult with Serhii Shamenkov, researcher of historical garments, I decided to redo my portrait of the hetman by “dressing” him in different clothes. The new portrait is painted on the basis of his image found in the Dormition Cathedral at the Kyivan Cave Monastery—only a black-and-white photo of the image has survived to date—that portrays Hetman Skoropadsky dressed in a white silk żupan (long shirt) with an expensive fur-trimmed kyreia (overcoat) draped over his shoulders. The sash, that I “gave” him to wear around the waist in this portrait, is extant article of clothing that used to be originally his in his actual life.
Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Fedoriw
English language editing by Roman Fedoriw
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