Viktor Vasnetsov painted this picture under the order of Savva Mamontov, who at that time held the post of chairman of the board of the Donetsk railway. The plot of the canvas is allegorical. Fairytale princesses are the embodiment of wealth hidden in the earth. In the traditions of the Russian people there were only two princes - gold and precious stones (in some sources it is called copper). Especially for railway customers, Vasnetsov introduces the coal princess into the plot.
The background of the picture is divided diagonally into two almost equal parts. The bottom shows the earth, rocks and huge boulders, and the upper part is given under the image of the evening sky. The colors of earth and sky form a sharp contrast. This creates a feeling of anxious foreboding, excitement and tension.
In the foreground, we see three female figures. These are the princesses of the underworld. By their poses and facial expressions, you can determine how girls relate to people and the earthly world. The Golden Princess is strict and arrogant; her gaze is lowered. The copper princess is more supportive; she is curiously examining a new setting for herself. Older sisters are dressed in rich outfits corresponding to their high status. Their bodies are slightly turned towards each other, forming a single group. It is as if the princesses are at the same time in their relation to what is happening.
But the younger sister, the coal princess, looks scared, pale, timid and from this more human. It is evident that it is most difficult for her to part with her home. The costume of the coal princess is more unpretentious; there is almost nothing in it from the luxury of her sisters' clothes. The girl's hands are helplessly lowered along the body. Other princes crossed their arms majestically in front of them. In the lower left corner of the picture are the figures of two peasants who bowed obediently to the underground mistresses. It is known that Vasnetsov drew these characters much later, when the main idea of the picture was already embodied on canvas.
Painting Surikov Stepan Razin