Surely the great painter painted this painting under the impression of Pushkin’s book “The Captain's Daughter”. In this novel, there is just a court scene and this canvas can be said to be a good illustration of that scene.
Probably you should not repeat the history of this Cossack revolt and recall some important milestones in the life of Emelyan Pugachev. The fact that it was an impostor and a daring person was not immediately clear.
At first, Pugachev had victories and, feeling good luck, decided to go to Moscow. But at the same time, in those cities that he captured, he made his own judgment, sometimes ridiculous and strange, and often fast.
The first who suffered from this court were the commandants of fortresses and cities, officers. The accusations were false and absurd, but he personally was not sorry for these people. So on the canvas, look how much passion, how much pain and how much emotion. Emelyan Pugachev himself sits in a chair on the porch and presides from above. Someone lost consciousness, someone on his knees asks for mercy, and someone stands proudly and does not even think to grovel in front of the rebel. The gallows are visible nearby.
Fate then played a cruel joke on Pugachev. He was still arrested and, as a beast, was taken to St. Petersburg for trial. Why is it like a beast? He was taken in a cage so that everyone could see how to rebel against the empress and slander her family. And then he was brutally executed, almost in the same way that he executed many officials without any discounts.
The terrible thing is that he clearly understood that he was committing sin, clearly understood that he would be counted and remembered. And by the way, his own betrayed him, they just ran away somewhere and he was left alone. And one in the field is not a warrior, especially after what he managed to do.
On the canvas, he is still in power and feels himself the arbiter of fate, but how illusory this feeling is and how quickly power ends. He understood this later.
Vasnetsov Mother of God