Libmonster ID: RU-17168
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZAN OVA

by Olga BAZAN OVA, journalist

In 2005, the Lyublino estate (from 1960 within the limits of Moscow), a monument of the Russian palace and park art of the 18th-19th cent. became a part of the Moscow State Joint Artistic Historico-Architectural and Natural Landscape Reserve-Museum. The palace of the brigadier and Councillor of State Nikolai Durasov as a model of national classicism is the main showplace of the estate, holding now an exposition devoted to the way of life, culture and traditions of the 19th century Moscow nobility.

Durasov palace.

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The first information on local places, the then Yurkino village, dates back to the end of the 16th century. It passed from one owner to another and got its present name two centuries later, when it belonged to prince Pyotr Prozorovsky, whose family grew fond of a small village with a modest wooden estate and an orchard. Its heyday came early in the 19th century, when Nikolai Durasov, a possessor of a large fortune, an eccentric and hospitable person, an organizer of opulent feasts and festivities, became the estate owner. In his time in 1801-1806 there appeared an architectural ensemble, a beautiful park with summer-houses and small bridges over the pond, and a greenhouse, one of the biggest in the area near Moscow at that time and with trees bearing oranges, dates and pineapples.

"An evangelic man of wealth", as he was called in society for his love of worldly pleasures, descended from an ancient noble family on his father's side and from Ural mine owners, not noble but rather prosperous people--on his mother's side. According to the then existing fashion, he made from Lyublino what we would call today a country house: he lived permanently in a Moscow mansion in Pokrovsky Boulevard and visited Lyublino together with his guests only for leisure, entertainment, balls and masquerades. It is clear that such festivities in his country estate famous "for feasts and hospitality" took place in a warm season.

But sometimes in winter Durasov gave a dinner in his greenhouse among laurel bushes, wild orange and lemon trees, and sweet-smelling flowers like in summer. Songs were heard to the accompaniment of clarinet and piano, and butlers handed round liquors and various food. By the way, it is such generous foodstuffs, that saved the estate from devastation by the French during the Patriotic War of 1812, when Napoleon generals appreciated its food supplies (at that time Durasov lived in his another country house near the city of Simbirsk).

The Lyublino palace was "the talk of the town" in Moscow at that time not only because of grand receptions. Its layout was unusual: a Greek cross, four wings connected by the first circle (double colonnade forming open loggias), and another circle in the center. Such shape reminds one of an Order of St. Anna in plan, which was awarded to Durasov, according to some sources, and who decided to immortalize this event in stone. However, some researchers deny such reasoning of an unusual design of the construction and consider it prototypes of works by Italian architect Andrea Palladio, in particular, Rotunda villa (end of the 16th century), the design of the fine arts temple ( 1757) by French architect Jean-Francois Neufforge and, of course, "the Russian Versaille", the imperial residence in Pavlovsk near Petersburg (1780s-1790s, Charles Cameron, Vincenzo Brenna).

The three-storeyed manor-house (total area 1,255.5 m2) was built by well-known Moscow architects Rodion Kazakov and his relative Ivan Yegorov, who chose a wonderful place for construction on a hill above a large pond, with magnificent views from all windows to the Moskva river, Kolomenskoye estate*, a picturesque stone ensemble of Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery (today in Shosseinaya Street), and the Kremlin. In line with the canons of classicism**, which regarded antiquity as an aesthetic ideal, the architects conceived their work as a temple of arts. This concept was in compliance with the form of an encircling colonnade (image resembling an ancient Greek sanctuary), gypsum bas-relief carvings on façades "Sacrifice", "Consecration of Girls to Aphrodite" and "Worship of Infant Dionysus", and also a sculpture of Greek god and patron of muses Apollo, which crowned the dome but, unfortunately, is not preserved.

Running ahead, we shall note that a frightful hurricane raged there in 1904, which tore the roof off from the building and damaged irreparably the sculpture. In a short time, the then owner of the palace brought from Germany another sculpture, a marble duplicate of the Roman Large Herculean Woman (1st cent. B.C., Dresden Museum exhibit), which in its turn was a prototype of the Greek sculpture (4th cent. B.C., Praxiteles school sculptor). But the new sculpture did not last long either, in 1941 it was taken away and lost. Only in 2001,

See: O. Bazanova, "Patrimonial Estate of the Czars", Science in Russia, No. l, 2011.--Ed.

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

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a new "patroness of the palace", an exact copy of the former sculpture, but with spikes protecting it from ever-present crows and sparrows, was installed on the dome. The interior layout of the building is also a combination of a cross and a circle. In the central part, there is a grand dining room or, as it was also called, Round Hall (97.4 m2), resembling ancient constructions of the pantheon type, i.e. centric and domed temples of all gods, and decorated with wonderful painting in the grisaille technique (imitation of sculptured relief). The scenes from the ancient mythology "Apollo and Muses", "Sacrifice", "Resplendent Phoebus" and "Cupid's Wedding" were painted over the doors to the adjacent rooms, as well as landscapes between the columns and the panel "Triumph of Venus" on the ceiling. The floor was also very smart with a star in the middle of the oak parquet.

Next is the rectangular Marble Hall (114 m2) where balls were given. It was faced with imitation marble of different color shades, decorated with a bright and cheerful plafond "Feast of Bacchus' on the Naxos Island", plaster cornices, bas-relief carvings with the Greek gods Zeus, Apollo, Calliope, Artemis, Aphrodite, Cupid, Adonis, etc.

The magnificent Column Hall (112 m2) is separated by two pairs of columns to three parts and was used as a drawing room. Like the Round Hall, it is painted in the grisaille technique but in pink and silver shades (the imitation marble used here is of the same color), due to

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which it is also called the Pink Hall. The subjects of decorative painting here are also taken from antiquity: "Myth of Actaeon", "Bacchus and Ariadne", "Trial of Nymph Callisto", "Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne", and there are panels with views of the Durasov estate. In his time there were popular comfortable sofas, armchairs and card-tables for guests in the hall.

Such is the front part of the palace, located on the first floor in the center and two "wings" of the cross, other premises were residential and auxiliary rooms. The building is crowned with a belvedere with large semicircular windows to all sides with a wonderful view and leading to four small rooms. All interiors were painted by Italian designer Jeromo Scotti and his assistant Santino Oldenelli, and bas-reliefs were made by the Russian serf craftsman Luka.

But it was not just the palace, which brought the broadest publicity to the Durasov estate. Early in the 19th century, Russian nobility took an active interest in serf theaters (a pure Russian phenomenon negative in many ways but useful for national culture as such theaters gave birth later on to many professional theatrical companies). There was at least a dozen of them near Moscow alone. The first and most prominent theater was established by count Nikolai Sheremetev (in Ostankino, Moscow)*. But the Lyublino theater was no less famous.

See: O.пїЅ Borisova,пїЅ "Russian Theater'sпїЅ Encyclopedia",пїЅ Science in Russia, No. 5, 2010.--Ed.

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It counted some hundred actors, including remarkable musicians, and gave performances twice a week.

The British memoirist Catherine Wilmot admired the heavenly corner created by Durasov in 1806. She recalled: All guests gathered at an open colonnade, whose marble steps were covered with a sweet-smelling carpet of Arab and Persian jasmine, carnation, rose and geranium. The steps lead to a lawn shaded by trees near the pond. From this lovely place you can see trees and meadows, small woods and lakes, valleys and hills spread here and there, and, at a long distance, the shining tops of Moscow churches beaming with splendor. After dinner we took a walk and gathered again at a dramatic performance in the evening. In the interval between the performance and the farce, they gave a piece of ballet. The theater building was splendid, and the performance was very good. Every half an hour the audience was offered fruits, sweets, ice cream, lemonade, tea and other drinks or sweet-smelling fumigation.

The theater repertoire was wide and included dramas, ballet and operas. Stage direction was headed by Pyotr Plavilshchikov, the then well-known playwright and actor of the Imperial theaters (later on many Durasov's serf actors, after receiving their freedom, started work in these theaters). The fame of Durasov's performances reached even the tsar's court, and in 1818 one of them was attended by Mariya Fyodorovna, widow of Emperor Pavel I. The performance had a stunning effect on the crowned person. Then she visited the greenhouse, chose some flowers and, finally, dined with the owner of the house, who gave her a royal welcome. Alas, it was one of his last receptions, as he died in the same year. The local newspapers wrote: "He was a kind man. The whole city was sorry when he died." The buildings of the theater and actor's school are situated not far from the palace. Fortunately, there are also preserved other constructions, namely, the estate manager's house and the boarding school for the children of the nobility. In 1985, the greenhouse was partially reconstructed after a fire in the 1920s. It included 10 halls, and in the center of the largest and highest circular central hall with a glass dome there was a 100-year bitter orange tree (it was rumored that the count Sheremetev had brought it from abroad) surrounded by six young trees. There were decorative plants from America and Asia in other rooms, pineapples and flowers in a special room.

Science in Russia, No. 2, 2011

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Nearby, in the street, the plants from this "temple of Flora" were exhibited in a warm season, and a plot of land with young trees designed for planting in the park and forest was not far away. There were household outbuildings, including stables, in the remote part of the estate. All of them were constructed at the same time with the manor-house early in the 19th century mostly of brick, which was a rare occurrence in Moscow environs at that time.

In 2001-2005, the scientific restoration of the palace was carried out, and now it looks like at the time of its famous owner. The main halls are ready to host a noisy company as it was almost 200 years ago, and the Small Sitting-Room is restored now on the second floor, where his most intimate friends used to gather. Attractive tables, chairs, armchairs and sofas of the French furniture makers of the 19th century stand along the walls. This room for friendly meetings has a finished look due to the main ornamentation of an aristocrat's dwelling of that time, namely, porcelain and bronze, for example, tableware of the Moscow factory owned by Popov in the 1830s-1850s in a cabinet of West-European

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make of the 18th-early 19th centuries and a golden clock "Cupid on a Chariot" (Paris, 1790s).

In one of the rooms on the third floor, we find ourselves in the so-called male part of the house. At that time the nobility together with the enlightened Empress Catherine the Great turned their eyes to Voltaire, one of the major French philosophers and enlighteners of the 18th century, a writer, historian, publicist and jurist. At that time even a social movement named after him sprang up in our country, and also the type of an armchair called Voltairian--a wide deep armchair with a high back, armrests and comfortable for old people. It is just such armchair upholstered in grey striped silk, like a sofa standing near-by, is a main exhibit of the owner's study in the Lyublino estate. Not far from there, on an oval exhibition stand there are Voltaire's works, including History of Peter the Great, written by him on the instructions of the Russian government on the basis of the historical sources gathered by our great scientist-encyclopaedist Mikhail Lomonosov*.

See: E. Karpeyev, "A Giant of Russia's Enlightenment", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.--Ed.

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There are also exhibited national printed publications of those days, beaded notebooks and other minor items presented to the estate owner by his female relations. In the corner there is a big splendid chest of drawers of the West-European make of the first half of the 18th century decorated with allegorical images of mythological subjects and symbolizing Asia, Europe, Africa, America and the Holy Land, encrustated with rare species of wood and ivory. It is well-known that one of the passions of the nobility was collection of ancient weaponry*. Therefore, a small exhibition of national and foreign military equipment of the 13th-19th centuries was arranged in a side room, where one can see a cavalry sword, gauntlets, stirrups, light guns, three-barrelled rifle (fire-arms), etc.

It should be noted that the bachelor Durasov had numerous sisters and nieces. Therefore, the museum visitors can familiarize themselves not only with the male part of the house, but also with its female half. Displayed there are reconstructed elegant costumes of early 19th century, a corner sofa of national furniture makers, an elegant table of that time with a beaded handbag and a fan as if just left by its owner, and many engravings on the walls. But quite recently, in 2009, the exposition was replenished with one more attribute of Russian nobility estate culture, namely, a harp made in the second half of the 18th century in Paris (presumably in Pierre Croup's workshop). This stringed musical instrument played by plucking, one of the most ancient ones invented by man and ever-improving over centuries, appeared in our country in the second half of the 18th century and immediately became popular in aristocratic circles. The harp displayed at the museum is an outstanding work of woodcarvers and is made in the Empire style; the backbone is a vertical prop representing a column, and its legs are in the form of lion's paws. In short, everything there reminds one of the past merriment and refined hospitability of the estate owner, who tried to make visits of his guests in his house extremely comfortable and unforgettable.

See: L. Budaeva, "Skill of National Armorers". Science in Russia, No. 3, 2010.--Ed.


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