PALLADIO AND RUSSIA
From Baroque to Modernism
September 27th 2014 – November 10th 2014
Museo Correr, Venice
The manuscript of the first Russian translation of the Andrea Palladio’s famous Treatise of Architecture (published in Venice in 1570) is attributed to Prince Dolgorukov and bears the date 1699. From that date, the great Italian architect because the fundamental point of reference in the land of the Tsars too.
The Palladio and Russia. From baroque to modernism exhibition has been organised by the Ministry of Cultureof the Russian Federation as part of the Italy-Russia Year of Tourism 2014.
The decision to focus the exhibition on the close links between the work of the supreme architect and Russian architecture is fully justified by the role Andrea Palladio played in the history of the discipline.
As is universally recognised, he is the single figure who has done most to influence the art of construction in the world.
In Russia, the name of Palladio has always had a special meaning, not only because associated with the splendours of the Italian Renaissance, but also as the principal source of inspiration for the architectural planning of the country, as well as model for raising awareness and the quality of everyday life. To take a noted example, the typically Russian phenomenon of the usad’ba, or country house, has Palladio’s oeuvre as its source of inspiration.
Arising from a collaboration between the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the ROSIZO museum and exhibitions centre of Moscow, with the support of theA. V. Ščusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow and the CSAR (Centro Studi sulle Arti della Russia dell’Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia), the exhibition, curated by Arkady Ippolitov and Vasily Uspensky of the Hermitage State Museum of Saint Petersburg, has been developed from a project by Zelfira Tregulova, Director of the ROSIZO museum and exhibitions centre.
Groundbreaking in contents and in the scientific results published in the catalogue, but also in its planning, the exhibition for the first time makes it possible to follow the 300 years of ‘Palladianism’ in Russia through a significant number of documents never before seen by the public, lent by the most prestigious museums and archives of Russia.
Among the institutions that have participated in the project, we should mention the State Hermitage and State Russian Museum of Saint Petersburg, the Alexander Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the StateTretyakov gallery of Moscow, the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, the State Historical Museum, the Ostankino Moscow Museum-Estate, the State Museum of Ceramics and the Kuskovo 18th-century Estate, the Arkhangelskoye State Museum-Estate, the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents, the State Museum of History of Saint-Petersburg, the Russian Academy of Fine Arts Museum, the Brodsky Museum-apartment, the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve, the National Library of Russia, the Russian Academy of Science Library, the Tver Regional Art Gallery, the Cherepovets Museum Union, the Pskov United History, Architecture and Art Museum-Reserve, the Contemporary Art Museum of Perm.
The first part of the exhibition is dedicated to Russian Palladian style which first appeared in the first half of the 18th century, at the time of Peter the Great’s reforms, which “opened a window on Europe”.
With the translation into Russian of Palladio’s famous Treatise of Architecture, the ideas of the great Italian architect began to play an increasingly important role, inspiring the projects of many Russian architects, as appears plainly in the construction of Petersburg.
However, the passion for Palladian architecture reached its peak under Catherine II. Wishing to appear as an enlightened sovereign, Catherine promoted the most innovative artistic trends from Europe, not only in the visual arts, but also in architecture.
And it was she who invited two famous architects of the time to Russia: Giacomo QuarenghiandCharles Cameron. The two were both convinced followers of Palladio and in Russia they found ample opportunity to give material form to the ideas of the brilliant master.
In turn, the projects of these two architects exerted a strong influence on the development of the Weltanschauung of the great Russian figure, Nikolay Lvov, architect, musician and poet.
It may be claimed without exaggeration that it was Lvov’s buildings, inspired by Palladio, to give rise to such a unique phenomenon as the Russian usad’ba, which concerned architecture, of course, but also art overall, literature and, above all, the everyday life of the time.
The works of Quarenghi, Cameron and Lvov contributed largely to the advent of the “Golden Century” of Russian culture, a period that coincided with the rule of Alexander I and marvellously described in the pages of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
It is to this period that the main part of the exhibition is dedicated.
There is also a close focus on the continuation of the Russian Palladian style during the 20th century, in a highly unusual phenomenon.
In a period of generalised enthusiasm for Modernism, a sudden interest developed for neoclassical forms, combined with nostalgia for the past culture of the usad’ba.
Architects Žoltovskij, Fomin, and Ščusev, who had started their own careers based on Modernist ideas, began to design architecture imbued with the spirit of Palladio.
Besides, the essential character of the Palladian style actually seemed very close to the revolutionary aesthetic of the Avant-garde school (as is known, the Constructivist architect Melnikov was a fervent admirer of Palladio’s work). And even in architecture of the Stalin period, born of a complex fusion between Neoclassicism and Avant-garde, the influence of Palladio is perceptible.
The exhibition ends with a project by A. Brodsky created at the start of the third millennium, demonstrating that the ideas of Andrea Palladio are still topical today.
Palladio’s influence went well beyond the borders of architecture, however, and for this reason that in the rooms on the second floor of the Museo Correr the public will be able to admire not only drawings, projects, sketches and models of architectural works – more than 200 of them –, also paintings and graphic works by such great masters as Levicky, Borovikovsky, Soroka, Borisov-Musatov, Sudejkin, Grabar’, Benois, Dobužinsky, Kandinskyand Suetin.
The fact that the exhibition is being held in Venice during the Architecture Biennale is highly significant, in that it stresses the special, past and present bond between Italian and Russian culture.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue prepared by the curators of the exhibition from the Hermitage: A. V. Ippolitov and V. M. Uspensky.
Apart from the curators’ own essays, the catalogue includes contributions from the rector of the Architectural Institute of Moscow, D. O. Švidkovsky and by Ju. E. Revzina, V. G. Bass, and I. G. Lander.