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The concept of the artist or writer as a prophetic figure became widespread during the period after the Napoleonic wars leading up to the Decembrist revolt, an unsuccessful uprising against the Russian emperor, Nicholas I, in December 1825. It was believed that visual and/or verbal messages could be created to enact social and political change. The subsequent metamorphosis during the years of Nicholas I’s reign went from that of socio-political into a religious,theurgic force, which was largely facilitated by the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol and artist Alexander Ivanov. They first met in Rome in the winter of 1838-1839, and remained dedicated to their roles as prophets for the remainder of their lives. Throughout this period Ivanov was settled in Rome, working on his magnum opus The Appearance of Christ to the People (1833-1857), while Gogol traveled throughout Europe toiling away on Dead Souls (1835-1852), considered the first of the great Russian literary masterpieces.
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