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"SUMMER COUNTRY PLEASURE HOUSE"

Дата публикации: 01 ноября 2021
Автор(ы): Olga BAZANOVA
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS)
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №2, 2013, C.74-81
Номер публикации: №1635766567


Olga BAZANOVA, (c)

by Olga BAZANOVA, journalist

 

In 1918, the State Museum-Estate "Kuskovo" and the State Museum of Ceramics (based mostly on the collection of the manufacturer and patron Alexei Morozov counting over 2,600 articles) were established in Moscow. Two decades later they were united in a unique complex that incorporated a well-preserved architectural ensemble of a high artistic value, the only regular park that has preserved till our days, fine art collections, extensive library funds and archives, as well as one of the largest depositories of porcelain and grass articles in Russia.

 

The village of Kuskovo near Moscow was first mentioned in the documents of the early 16th century as a possession of the boyar Vasily Sheremetev. His descendant-an associate of Emperor Peter I, commander and diplomat-Field-Marshal Boris Sheremetev arranged an estate there that achieved its heyday in the times of his son count Pyotr Borisovich.

 

The tsar-reformer intended country estates as a place of leisure and pleasure for officials who "need to have rest from stress that is a mandatory element of life at court and from the society or, rather, people we cannot avoid meeting in the city". But in the mid-18th century these estates turned into "theaters" demonstrating, according to the contemporaries of the epoch, "splendor... and magnificence of buildings, luxury of palace decor, foppishness in carriages and clothes". In summer large feasts visited by numerous guests were arranged there; the guests were offered folklore, choir and horn bands performances, games, music, fireworks, boat voyages, even "funny sea battles"...The Baroque* that reigned in Europe of those times characterized by an increased theatricality was very inventive when entertainment was in question.

 

Pyotr Sheremetev made Kuskovo such "summer country pleasure seat": he wanted to become an owner of the largest, wealthiest and most beautiful estate that could compete with the Imperial Court (it is not by chance that the architectural design and layout of the estate is reflecting the architectural character of ensembles constructed near St. Petersburg-Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Oranienbaum). Bogs were drained, and a system of water bodies was set up, including the Bolshoi Pond-the biggest water reservoir in the estate. Near the pond, there is the Pochetny Dvor (the Yard of Honor)- the main part of the complex that incorporates a palace (1769-1775) for the most solemn dinners, a kitchen

 

See: I. Terekhova, "Russian Baroque", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2009.--Ed.

 
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extension (1755) and a house Church of Carrying the Life-Giving Holy Cross-All-Merciful Savior (the oldest monument in the estate; 1737) with a bell-tower for eight bells (1792). A small quadrangular church is crowned with one cupola and decorated with four white-stone sculptures of apostles in the niches around the drum and a figure of an angel with stretched wings and a cross in hands.

 

Kuskovo palace was designed by and built under supervision of the Moscow architect Karl Blank. The big house, as it was called those days, plastered and painted in "morning dawn" color, has three tiers: a stone basement (occupied by wine cellars) and two wooden floors: the first floor was intended to accommodate guests; the second floor was used for household purposes. The front porch is supported by an elegant colonnade; the pediment is richly decorated with luxurious carving and a count's crown in the center. On both sides of a wide white-stone stairs-the main entrance to the house-there are made semicircular ramps with enclosures decorated by figures of sphinxes for entry of carriages.

 

The palace was designed as a suite of rooms: passing through one door to another, you can make round of it. The interior decor of each room is unique and bright: contrasting colors are used to decorate walls and ceilings; everywhere stucco moulding, pictures, fireplaces and stoves decorated with glazed tiles, gorgeous light fittings, parquet made of various wood species, tapestries, carpets, bronze articles, carved elegant furniture. By the way, many things-ornaments, silk wallpaper, porcelain items, etc.-were made in the so-called Chinese (or Chinoiserie) style, representing European interpretation of decor and technical methods spread in the Far East, in fashion in the 18th century. Fortunately, the decor of the "Big House" has been preserved till now, and a few lost fragments have been reconstructed on the basis of documents of the 1780s-1790s and available analogues in the course of a large-scale restoration of 1976-1983.

 

Thus, in the entrance hall, or main vestibule, you will first notice lamps-white marble statues of young men and women-and vases decorated with alabaster garlands of fruits and vegetables, imitating ancient patinat-ed bronze. In the crimson living room, visitors always pay attention to the portraits of Empress Catherine II, made by one of the best Russian portraitists Fyodor Rokotov (1762), and of count Pyotr Sheremetev (by French portraitist Nicolas De La Pierre, 1770); in the lattice-work living-room-to the marble busts of Boris Sheremetev and Anna Sheremeteva, made by the prominent sculptor Fyodor Shubin (1783).

 

If you go further, you will get into a room for playing cards, then into a billiard room, a grand bedroom, a study, a couch room, a library, a picture-room, a big dining-room with an oval table decorated with elegant dishware, a dance hall or a mirror gallery-the most spacious room of the palace from where one can go out to the park, etc. We feel as if we are watching a magnificent performance, and its participants wearing powdered wigs are about to leave their places in the golden frames of old portraits (it is not by chance that theatrical art in the 18th century was in the center of public interest).

 

As a continuation of this superb "stage area" can be regarded a regular park (with a symmetrical layout, straight alleys, flowerbeds, water bodies, and other regular geometrical elements of correct design), where larches over 200 years of age are still growing. Pyotr Boriso-vich, a hospitable and kind host, ordered to install swings, roundabouts, aviaries and organize other amusements, erect garden sculptures (mainly antique gods and heroes) there, bushes were cut "in the form of peasants, wine gods, sitting dogs, hens, geese, men with fins".

 
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Many of these amusements disappeared, but, fortunately, we can take delight in watching pleasure garden pavilions made in the style of "different epochs and peoples" filled with the spirit of a game, conventionality and play-acting. The oldest of them-a red brick Dutch House (1749-1751) with a graded pediment characteristic of the country of wind mills and water channels, encircled by a small garden with tulip flowerbeds-is a kind of animated landscape picture of a Dutch painter.

 

Internal design of the house (vestibule and a kitchen on the first floor, a hall and a dessert room on the second floor) also demonstrates living conditions of a regular burgher. But it is a sham simplicity: walls of the kitchen and dessert room are covered with rare white-and-blue and carpet glazed tiles with images of landscapes, sailing boats, mills, pastures, etc., all premises are richly decorated with priceless pictures of Dutch painters of the 17th-18th centuries-still-life paintings, portraits, marines, rural themes, "gallant scenes", pictures representing mythological topics, etc.

 

Porcelain and pottery hold a special place in the interior decor: at that time such items in Russia were considered a luxury and proved the wealth of the owner. Dish-ware made by Saxon, Flemish and Dutch manufacturers-vases, jugs, plates, cups, and sets, including dish-ware brought from the Far East (Japanese and Chinese artworks were brought to Europe by Dutch shipping companies) is exhibited in cupboards and on the tables. You can also see essential attributes of the interior decor of that epoch-articles a la "Chinoiserie", for example, mirrors, a German fireplace screen, Russian showcase covered with black Japanese varnish and painted in golden colors.

 

All furniture we can see today in the house was made by Dutch and German artisans in the 17th-18th centuries: oak tables with chiselled legs, cabinets with glazed doors, small cupboards exhibiting fragile rarities, chairs upholstered with embossed leather, high floor clocks, Japanese coffer upholstered with shark skin. To create a complete impression of the warmth and comfort of the burgher house, the interior decor was complemented by sham "members of household"-plane picturesque figures of men and women, rather fashionable at the time of heyday of Kuskovo estate.

 

The elegant Italian House (1754-1755; architects Yuri Kologrivov and Fyodor Argunov), painted in soft green, was used as a venue for "small receptions" and a place where owners stored art rarities (paintings, pictures made of straw, bead and marble, antique sculptures, etc.). Over the entrance to the house, we can see a small balcony, the opposite side of the house is decorated with a recessed balcony-an essential element of country villas typical of the country of arts and palaces. The laced lattice, jambs and lintel of windows and other elements of the exterior decor were designed by Argunov.

 

Guests were received in small but richly decorated rooms on the second floor, especially in the hall always flooded with light coming through glazed doors of the recessed balcony. The ceiling of the hall is decorated with a magnificent plafond Diana (by painter Pyotr Kra-sovsky) in a carved gold-plated frame, everywhere marble sculptures and biscuit (unglazed porcelain) figurines after models of Russian and French sculptors, glitter of gilt and crystal elements of splendid lamps.

 

In the corner dining-room, there are pictures of foreign painters. First of all, works of representatives of the Dutch school-landscapes by Jan Both and Hans Jeur-riaensz (first half of the 17th century), a series of "portraits of old men and women" by unknown painters of the same period, the "Paradise" by Roelant Savery (1619) representing a fantastic garden with peacefully grazing animals. The "Girl with a Green Twig in Her

 
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Hair" by an unknown Venetian painter of the 18th century is also very impressive; the effect is complemented by the plafond Triumph of Venus by Pyotr Krasovsky.

 

Nearby is a small oak study with walls finished with oak panels, miniature mirrors and flower still-life paintings, in particular, by the Dutch painter Peter Castells (second half of the 18th century). The bright plafond Zephyrus and Flora also pained by Krasovsky creates a very solemn atmosphere, which is rather unexpected for such a small room.

 

According to many art historians, the Hermitage pavilion (1765-1767; Karl Blank, Fyodor Argunov) constructed in the Early Russian Classical style*, is a gem of the whole architectural ensemble of the estate; it was also used for receptions but only for close friends and members of the family without servants (its name is translated from French as "a private place" or "a hermit's shelter"). Therefore, a special system to lift the dinner table from the first to the second floor was installed there. Unfortunately, only 4 picturesque plafonds in the corner rooms have preserved till now, and you can see them when the house is open for visitors.

 

The Grotto (1755-1775, Fyodor Argunov, the grotto was completed after Argunov's death) is the most fabulous structure in Kuskovo: it is the only grotto in Russia with a completely preserved interior of the underwater cave. The Grotto consists of hall (it was occasionally used to arrange dinners and dances) and two corner studies, where the German "grotto master" Johan Herman Vogt finished walls and ceilings with nacre shells of 24 species of molluscs, pieces of mirrors, glass and marble. This

 

*See: Z. Zolotnitskaya, "Lofty Simplicity and Dignity", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2009.--Ed.

 

unique mosaic represents fancy images-remarkable trees, flowers, games of fantastic animals, fish, birds, different ornaments. Dolls in the niches-bought in 1775 by Pyotr Sheremetev from a "foreign merchant" Johan Rosenfelt (works of Western European sculptors of the second half of the 18th century)-are another exotic element of the interior decor; these dolls are the only example of this art kept in Russia. Most of the dolls are made of oak trunks, covered by a special glue-containing substance and shells over it. Some are made of clay, with subsequent baking, and decorated in the same way.

 

Beautiful winter gardens were also intended to amaze visitors of the estate. Thermophilic representatives of the subtropical and tropical flora-flowers, citrus and peach plants, coffee trees, palms, pineapples, cacti, etc.-are still growing in a big stone gallery constructed in 1761-1764 and designed by Fyodor Argunov, the biggest facility at the estate. It was used to receive guests too-in between glazed galleries with exotic plants there is an octagonal dance hall. Today, the winter gallery and an American greenhouse located nearby (reconstructed in the 1970s-1980s in place of a partially preserved original greenhouse) are used to exhibit collections of the State Museum of Ceramics-the only collection in Russia representing pottery, majolica, porcelain and glass items from antiquity till the present time (about 40,000 pieces).

 

The vast section of this rich collection dedicated to the works of Russian masters is represented by articles manufactured at the Imperial Porcelain Plant (established in 1744 in St. Petersburg)-the first porcelain plant in our country and the third one in Europe. Visitors can see big palace vases with subject paintings, various dishware, wall panels, small pieces of plastic arts,

 
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sculptures, including a collection of figurines from the series Peoples of Russia (1780s). The patriotic theme of the exposition is reflected in the articles from the Guriev set (1809-1816), decorated with pictures of nature and cities, household scenes, portraits of people in national costumes, and used at the Peterhof palace to serve "princes who stayed there".

 

In the 18th century, Gardner's factory located in the Moscow Region (Verbilki) (opened in 1754, the first private porcelain factory in Russia) manufactured "order" sets-St. George's, St. Andrew's, St. Alexander's and St. Vladimir's (with images of main orders, bands and laurel wreaths) "to honor holders of orders at annual ceremonies". In the 19th century this factory also manufactured tea and coffee sets, dishware decorated with flower patterns, and expressive figurines of peasants, craftsmen, merchants, even literary characters and popular actors.

 

The exposition of the State Museum of Ceramics gives a detailed information on products manufactured at Dulevo Plant (Moscow Region), former "Porcelain and Pottery Manufacturing Partnership of M. Kuznet-sov"-the biggest national plant of today. It was established in 1832 and in late 19th century incorporated 18 plants producing almost 2/3 of national products of that type, including church utensils: kiots (icon cases), candelabra, icon stands. Thanks to this enterprise, a high-quality, richly decorated and glaringly white dishware has entered every house. It is not by chance that Russian coloring is the most widely used element of decor typical of this plant, and famous "agashkas" (roses with roundish leaves using big strokes in the old folk technique) are the most favorite element of painting.

 

The so-called agitation porcelain-hand-painted utensils with images of hammer and sickle, Red Army

 
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soldiers, sailors, women workers, mottos, appeals, etc. produced in small consignments-represents the Soviet collection of early 20th century. It is worth saying that in many cases compositions were offered by famous painters-Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Vasily Kandinsky, Nikolai Suyetin, Ilya Chashnik. The sculptures Accordionist, Girl, Merchant in a Fur Coat, Merchant's Wife on a Walk made of plaster in the early 1920s (to be moulded in porcelain) by the master of national portraits Boris Kus-todiev are also of great interest.

 

The exposition of national glass includes the oldest national samples-a goblet Shutikha and a winebowl with an inscription Petr Alex Magn Czar Mosc, manufactured at a plant located in the settlement of Izmailovo in the Moscow Region (established in 1668)*. Blue, green, red, milk-white articles produced at St. Petersburg Imperial Glass Plant (operated from 1730) and Bakhme-

 

*See: O. Bazanova, "Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2011.--Ed.

 

tev's Glass Plant (opened in 1764, today Penza Region)* look very elegant and festive. The first plant was famous for its big vases, the second one-for glasses with double walls in between of which miniature pictures of nature and rural life made of colored paper, moss and straw were inserted. The collection also includes pieces manufactured at the Dyatkovo Crystal Plant (established in 1790, Bryansk Region)-wine sets, a winebowl and enameled golden salt-cellar decorated in Russian style. One of the most valuable exhibits of the majolica section is an oval plate Sadko manufactured at the Moscow Plant of Ceramics Abramtsevo in 1899 according to the design of the painter Mikhail Vrubel who discovered unlimited opportunities of the play of light and shadow, colors and volumes in glazed baked clay.

 

Foreign works are widely represented at the museum: ancient oil cans, fragrance and balm bottles (3rd century

 

*See: V. Parafonova, "A Diamond in the Crystal Empire", Science in Russia, No. 5, 201l.--Ed.

 
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B.C.-3rd century A.D.), white-blue pottery, which originated in Delft (Holland) in the 17th century, products of the 18th-19th centuries manufactured at the famous Meissen (Germany) and Sevres (France) porcelain factories, including articles of the 20th century in modernist style designed by one of its creators French painter Emille Galle who also developed a technology of production of articles from a stained multilayer glass.

 

To complete our journey around the estate, let's visit 5 recently reconstructed miniature palaces intended... for poultry. Geese, ducks, white and black swans orderly walking down to the pond and, enjoying this "walk" in water, entertained owners of the estate and their guests, creating one more theatrical performance. This and other "signs of wealth" (as French philosopher and writer of the 18th century Jean-Jacques Rousseau called luxury articles, useless in substance, but called to demonstrate superiority) were, of course, designed not for life, but for show. In the time of Pyotr Borisovich up to 30,000 guests gathered there during receptions and twice a week were invited all, "who wanted to participate".

 

But times change, so do customs and tastes. Luxury was first replaced by elegance, magnificence by refinement what people had admired before turned out to be simple or provocative. Classicism is reigning in all spheres of culture and brought forward ideals of ancient world-triumph of the common sense, return to nature, simplicity, "noble simplicity and majestic tranquility", bequeathed by ancestors. Under the next owner of Kuskovo Nikolai, Pyotr Borisovich's son, the estate was maintained in good order but lost its role as a pleasure residence for numerous receptions. However, the spirit of splendid baroque still lives here.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 01 ноября 2021 года

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