In A Hussar’s Promise, Book 2 in The Winged Warrior Series, Jacek finds himself in a Cossack camp where the men are laughing uproariously as they surround a scribe who is busily writing. Sort of like the painting above (Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, painted by Ilya Repin, 19th century) … if not exactly like it!

The inspiration for that scene in the book came from this very painting, and the story the painting depicts. The piece was created between 1878-1891 (or 1880-1891, depending upon the source) by Ilya Yefimovich Repin, a Russian-Ukrainian. Repin was renowned as the most famous Russian realist painter of his time. A prolific artist, Repin created a number of famous works of art, including Barge Haulers on the Volga. He died in 1930 at the the ripe age of 86.

The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks now hangs in the Russian State Museum in Saint Petersburg, and I’d love to travel there and gaze at it. This is a painting I could get lost in for hours! Its vivid detail captured me at the first, and I absolutely love it.

The painting depicts a rowdy group of Zaporozhian Cossacks who are replying to a demand sent to them by Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire. The authenticity of the reply, along with the original missive, is up for debate, but it was supposedly written in the latter 1600s. Again, the exact year is dependent upon the source, and while that means it was penned some sixty-plus years after the date the novel takes place, I couldn’t resist adding this bit of fun.

The reply is very colorful, and has various interpretations that range from PG to something at the other extreme. I won’t repeat the letter here, but it can be found in a number of places on the Internet, including Wikipedia. Victor A. Friedman wrote an interesting commentary that gives not only details and various versions of the reply, but its context as well. It can be found here. Enjoy!