In 1897 Nicholas Roerich graduated from the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. “The Messenger” was his diploma work. It was bought by Russian businessman and art collector Pavel Tretyakov.
Leo Tolstoy told Roerich:
“Have you ever had to cross a fast river on a boat? You should always reign above the place where you need to, otherwise the river will drift you off the course. And in the field of moral requirements one should always steer higher – life will carry away everything. Let your messenger keep the rudder very high then he will reach the destination!”