Last Updated September 5, 2023.
And the Englishmen, seeing such exchanges with the sovereign, at once bring him straight to Apollo Belvedere and take from his one hand a Mortimer musket and from the other a pistolia.
In the above quote, the English officials are showing Platov and Czar Alexander I around a museum. They steer both men to the statue of Apollo Belvedere holding a Mortimer musket and pistol.
In western civilization, the statue of Apollo represents the epitome of excellence, perfection, and accomplishment. Today, a statue of Apollo Belvedere is showcased at the Vatican. It's said to be a copy of a similar statue by Leochares, one of the artists who built the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
In the story, Apollo represents English ingenuity, excellence, and superior workmanship. The original Apollo is said to have just defeated the serpent Python with his bow and arrow. Leskov has Apollo hold the Mortimer musket, a particularly powerful English invention. In the nineteenth century, H. W. Mortimer created the highest quality weapons and was gunmaker to the king.
Unfortunately for the English officials in the story, Apollo Belvedere is also holding a pistol supposedly taken from the belt of a pirate chief in Candelabria. Platov, determined to prove that the pistol is of Russian origin, pulls a gunsmith's screwdriver from his pocket and proceeds to dismantle the pistol. He shows the English officials the words inscribed on the trigger: "Ivan Moskvin, town of Tula."
Upon seeing this, the English officials become visibly embarrassed. Leskov shows, by the juxtaposition of the Mortimer musket and Tula pistol, that English dominance in military affairs is not a decided affair (at least to the Russian mind):
"This," he says, "is indeed a very fine and interesting piece of work, Your Majesty, only we shouldn't get astonished at it with rapturous feeling only, but should subject it to Russian inspection in Tula . . . to see whether our masters can surpass it"
In the above quote, Leskov highlights the strong nationalistic tendencies of Platov and Nicholas I. Both want to see the Tula artisans create something of national pride to rival that of the English nymphosoria.
Interestingly, Leskov's Russians are both nationalistic and deeply religious in nature. The three Tula artisans Platov hires are said to be filled with "churchly piety" and to harbor a deep veneration for the Russian motherland.
Before the three worthies commence their work, they hold a prayer "service" before an icon representing St. Nicholas of Mtsensk. The icon holds a church and a sword in its hands, signifying Russia's military might and the relevance of the Russian Orthodox faith:
Where did you get a meagroscope with which you could produce this astonishment?
In the above quote, Nicholas asks Lefty how he managed to produce the minute shoes for the nymphosoria. Lefty only answers that he has no such meagroscope. After all, no meagroscope is powerful enough to illuminate the shoes for the human eye. Lefty humbly maintains that his "well-aimed eyes" helped him produce his masterpiece of mechanical precision.
Here, Leskov pokes fun at the absurd levels of nationalistic pride showcased by Lefty and Nicholas.