Saint Bartholomew was the one of the apostles who, after the ascension of Christ, went to preach his faith in Asia Minor and India. He wandered there for a long time, speaking for the people and at the thrones of the kings, until one of the Armenian kings did not want to get rid of the annoying preacher who called his people to peace.
Bartholomew was seized and crucified upside down on the cross, but he continued to preach in this position. Fearing that he would embarrass the guard, the king ordered to tear off his skin and decapitate him, which was done.
In the picture, Saint Bartholomew is depicted before these terrible events. Against a dark background, his gray traveling robe almost glows. A wanderer’s staff is clutched in his hand, resting on which he has traveled many roads. His second hand is pressed to his heart. The apostle's face is like a skull.
He suffered hardships, starved and tired, he spoke to the indifferent and cruel, he went through half the world to convey the teachings of his Master. His beard is already gray, his face is wrinkled. He managed to grow old in his wanderings, but the light illuminating him from the inside does not seem dimmer.
Saint Bartholomew does not look quite at the viewer. His gaze is turned a little to the side, as if there he sees the lands that are waiting for his coming and conversion. There is no shadow of doubt or cruelty in it.
Not wanting to carry faith by fire and sword, he wants to carry it with a kind word and mercy, as Christ taught. After all, all Christian faith is love, and God is love, and one should feel love for one's neighbor and for the enemy. It is this feeling - love for all, for every person - that is in the gaze of the apostle. No one is bad. No one is worthy of hate.
And you can be sure that even if he happened to know his fate in advance - a cross, a terrible execution, and skin being removed - the apostle would not turn away, and from his gaze, from the bruise of his head, from his hand clenched at the heart, this is crystal clear.
Portrait of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov