Georgii Ivanovich Gabashvili, who painted under pseudonym Gigo Gabaev, was born in Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia) and began to draw from an early age. After completing his initial art studies at a local art school and an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Academy of Art in St. Petersburg in 1883, Gabashvili came back to Tbilisi and was introduced to Franz Roubaud (1856-1928), a renowned painter of battle scenes and equestrian portraits. As Roubaud's assistant, Gabashvili traveled extensively gathering materials and painting studies for a series of painting depicting scenes from the recent Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78. It was at that time that the artist became interested in painting large scale battle scenes. Armed with glowing recommendations from his teacher, Gabashvili arrived in St. Petersburg and was accepted in the battle-painting class taught by the celebrated battle painter Gotfrid Villevalde (1818-1903). While still a student at the Academy, Gabashvili won large and small silver medals for his paintings Kurd-warrior and Camel Caravan at the Rest Stop in Desert. In 1888 he submitted his monumental work Market Place in Baku as his graduation project, and was awarded the silver medal and the title of 'battle-painter.' Gabashvili's success was further heightened when the latter painting was acquired by Pavel Tretiakov for his renowned art collection. Upon returning home the artist began painting colorful local scenes, views of his beloved Tbilisi and small genre paintings. In the process of preparing for his first personal exhibition, Gabashvili visited remote local villages and places in the mountains where fierce fighting between Russian troops and rebellious local tribes had recently transpired.
The present painting depicts one of the episodes of the Caucasian War of 1817-1864. Beginning during the reign of Emperor Alexander I of Russia, the war against Chechnya, Dagestan, and Northwestern Caucasus lasted for almost fifty years. Struggling to survive against the relentless pressures of the Persian and Ottoman Empires and its powerful Muslim neighbors to the south, the ancient Christian Kingdom of Georgia sought the protection of Russia. Soon after the annexation of Georgia, Russia found itself fighting a large-scale war against the barbaric tribes of the mountainous interior of the Caucases. The ongoing conflict spanning the southern border of Russia became a part of life for several generations. The writers Mikhail Lermontov and Lev Tolstoy took part in the hostilities, and the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin referred to it in his Byronic poem The Prisoner of Caucasus (1821).
In this painting, the artist captured a rare quiet moment between battles. Tired warriors are resting near their tents, building fires, sleeping, and conversing before the next military maneuver. The large multi-figural composition echoes the magnificent mountainous landscape in the background.