Libmonster ID: RU-17131
Author(s) of the publication: Zoya ZOLOTNITSKAYA

by Zoya ZOLOTNITSKAYA, Shchusev State Research Museum of Architecture (Moscow)

Art of architectural model making in the course of construction of major structures appeared in the medieval Europe and came to Russia in the first half of the 18th century. Later on their creation with direct involvement of an architect as the author became "a finishing stroke" on the developing of a project. Made of wood with maximum precision on a certain scale, a prototype of future palace buildings or an urban construction demonstrated facades, inner arrangement and decoration interiors, allowing to present a spatial composition, check correlation of parameters and accuracy of selected elements.

The models under discussion (in contrast to copies and reconstructions, which reproduce buildings already constructed on a reduced scale) are called the authorial, design or original models. Alongside practical expediency (they were often used to make working sketches), they had representation significance creating a visible image of a proposed construction, especially important for the customer, and in many cases they were placed near the facility under construction for demonstration to the inquisitive public. Then they turned into the property of history of architecture, an evidence of a certain stage of creative search or the author's initial idea often not realized, which made such monuments even more valuable for the progeny.

As Alexander Benua, the well-known painter and art historian, noted in 1907 in his article for the Old Years magazine*, "in olden times, when people were really fond of architecture and treated future construction with excited curiosity—how will everything be adjusted, how will all parts fit in, how will harmony of lines be attained—future artistic enjoyment of the monument itself was anticipated through its models, changes were estimated on models, and a possibility of such changes was checked right away".

The interest in collection of architectural copies arose in our country in the reign of Empress Catherine the Great, when in 1778 she obtained 32 corkwood articles made by


* The Old Years was a monthly magazine published for lovers of arts and antiquities in St. Petersburg in 1907-1916. -Ed.

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the Italian craftsman Antonio Kiki, which presented outstanding monuments of architecture from different countries and epochs. In 1802 they were passed over to the Petersburg Academy of Arts, where the biggest, costly and varied collection of similar rarities in Russia was formed in the course of time.

The Shchusev State Research Museum of Architecture* was the first in the world to launch work on collection of monuments representing history of architecture. It has 160 such exhibits, which give a more clear idea of the certain construction than a graphic material to an ordinary visitor. They are mainly represented by models of the most important preserved works of national town-planning art, which were especially made for our collection, and copies of the lost masterpieces reconstructed by drawings. But the unique authorial models are most valuable, namely, a model made by one of the founders of Russian classicism** Vasily Bazhenov (1737/1738-1799)***, an outstanding architect, draughtsman, theorist of architecture, which was exceptional both in size (over 17 m long, about 6 m wide and 1.3 m high) and in artistic and historical importance.

What is meant here is the grand and incredibly challenging for the 18th century project of the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow****, which played a key role in ambitions of Catherine the Great at the start of her reign. Bazhenov was entrusted with creating of an ensemble cov-


See: N. Frolova, "Treasure-House of Architecture", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2007. -Ed.

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

*** Vasily Bazhenov designed the Tsaritsyno ensemble, the Pashkov House (1784-1786, Moscow), the Mikhaylovsky Castle (1797-1800, St. Petersburg). -Ed.

**** The existing Great Kremlin Palace was built in 1839-1849 according to the design of Konstantin Thon.—Ed.

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Plan of the model house. 1770.

ering the whole territory of the Kremlin hill and demonstrating the power and well-being of the state renovated thanks to the wise reign of the Empress. It took five years to combine old and planned constructions into a single complex. At the same time its exact prototype was formed, and the architect was fully aware of its importance (during his studies in Europe in 1760-1764 he made a model of the Louvre colonnade in Paris and the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome). He stressed deliberately: "Any architect makes plans and geometral façades with a single purpose to have only an idea of the construction planned by him; but in order to find out how beautiful and sizeable it will be in reality, he has to imagine it inevitably in perspective; and to be even more sure of it, he must make a model, which is already considered a half of the work done."

Due to the importance of this undertaking supervised by the empress herself, the Expedition of the Kremlin Construction was set up in July 1767, which was in charge of the construction operations and recorded details of the design in official reports, which provided a rare opportunity for descendants to trace all construction stages. Bazhenov considered it obligatory to take into account terrain features and relationship between new and old constructions. He checked structural elements in drawings with those on the model and made changes caused not by abstract-aesthetic considerations, but his striving to bring his design nearer to real conditions.

In October 1769, in the Kremlin near the Armory a wooden building was built (later on it was enlarged many times by annexes) with an octagonal hall housing a podium of the same form for assembly of a prototype of the future palace and Bazhenov's office nearby. He pointed out: "I have to be there (in the model house.—Auth.) almost without going out..." The architect directly superintended progress of work, determined and approved a numerous staff of craftsmen.

Specificity of the set task and a demanding nature of the author conditioned a high professional level of performers. Thus, sculptors Zakhar Uryadov and Ivan Yasnygin as well as the medalist Fyodor Stoyanov were graduates of the Academy of Arts, the interiors were painted by the well-known Russian artists Ivan Nekrasov, Fyodor Milashev, Ivan Marchenkov and a Pole Johann Ligozkij, and such important work as casting of capitals, bas-reliefs and other architectural elements were performed by the German decorator Johann Justus. Besides, Bazhenov kept an eye on fire safety and, therefore, he requested to build a separate workshop for moulders.

The model was made on a rather large scale (approximately 1:48), therefore a major work for the model was carried out by woodworkers. Johann Miller and Iogann Wittmann (Germans were considered the best specialists in this field at that time) were invited to supervise the woodworkers, and apprentices were brought from Petersburg (also Germans). Several dozens of Russian carpenters and

стр. 60

woodcutters also worked there. The lathe work, in particular, turning of numerous columns, was entrusted to Gavrila Sidorov and Valberkh from Germany.

Different construction materials were used and selected carefully in terms of durability and in conformity with the design. The main structures were cut out of lime tree, elegant cornices out of maplewood, apple and pear trees were used in the interior finishing. The column capitals, rosettes and other decoration elements were cast in lead, and the sculptural ornament was made of gypsum; by the way, several grades of the latter were tested beforehand.

Bazhenov strived for the most accurate reproduction of all elements and maximum approximation of the color scheme of the exterior and especially of the interior to the design pattern. For example, the available information testifies that the architect requested samples of the finishing material to be delivered prior to painting of main apartments in imitation of marble. According to some reports, they were received in late 1770. In short, the process of the model making was a gradual and painstaking process, as if it were a real building, with simultaneous improvement of elements of its layout, external architecture and internal premises.

The empress' idea of reconstructing the ancient Kremlin excited interest of patriarchal Moscow. And that is not accidental: project contemporaries were undoubtedly struck by an unprecedented scope of the planned ensemble against the background of picturesque diversity of styles of Moscow and emerging forms of classical architecture. Many people visited the house to see what the ensemble would look like in reality. It is known that after Bazhenov obtained a permit from Catherine the Great: from May 1771, once a month on Saturdays in the afternoon the public, "except ignoble people", was to be admitted to the house. The new sight of the city was proudly shown to distinguished foreign guests. For example, the khan "of the Crimean Peninsula subjugated by Russia with his numerous retinue showed a keen interest in the model and everything", a Prussian prince also visited the house.

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The architect and his team worked indefatigably. Even in the dramatic year of 1771, when the Kremlin Chudov Monastery was destroyed during the terrible plague revolt in September, the craftsmen, who witnessed the event, did not leave their working places. Fortunately, the furious crowd did not touch the model. In the spring of 1772, the empress was informed of the completion of works and expressed to see the model for the final approval of the project. In the winter of 1773, the model was took to pieces brought in three consignments to Petersburg and installed in special premises in the Isaakievskaya ploshchad.

On March 6, 1774, Catherine the Great signed an order on construction of the ensemble. By May of the next year a ceremonial laying of the foundation stone was carried out, followed by excavations and provision of materials. However, as fate willed it and due to many circumstances, the project was never implemented. Nevertheless, the years of work on the project became an excellent practical and theoretical school for a whole generation of Moscow classical architects, and the preserved model provides a visual idea of the highest artistic level of Bazhenov's masterpiece.

Even now, after a lapse of more than two centuries from the time of its inception and despite numerous losses, the prototype of the non-realized stone work by the famous architect rouses a range of emotional and aesthetic impressions among spectators. First of all, they are struck by a feeling of the author's confidence in creation of such complicated and daring spatial composition, which clearly characterizes his style. The most interesting feature of this unique monument is an opportunity for all-round observation determined by its considerable sizes. If you move along the extensive façades of the model, you can see how various foreshortenings appear and change. Besides, the models of the Kremlin's ancient cathedrals are included in "a play" of volumes. It is true, they are schematic, without decorative finishing, but they provide a comprehensive idea of the spatial range of the project.

First of all, our attention is drawn by the central part of the model, which is performed with utmost care, i.e. the palace façade looking onto the Moskva river, was intended to

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become the most effective and grand structure, dominating in the city panorama. Very expressive are its two lower floors, an unusually rusticated stylobate bearing a colossal volume of the building and strengthening simultaneously the Kremlin hill. The composition of the upper floors is strictly symmetric in relation to the central colonnade. Thanks to a diverse rhythmic and plastic arrangement of order forms, Bazhenov avoided the monotony of the extensive façade and therewith achieved a unique balance between its monumentality and refinement of decorative and architectural elements. The building designed by him, with perfect proportions and harmony of the particular and the whole, is a real sample of classical architecture.

Of considerable interest is an original composition of the festive oval square (the richly decorated front entrances of the palace and theater were planned to look onto it), a spatial public center of the Kremlin according to the author's design. Rather striking is the scale of a colonnade surrounding the square like a grand amphitheater and raised to special terraces, which could be used in festive and coronation days.

The central part of the model consists of two separate elements, which allows to make out inner rooms of the palace, namely, a throne hall, two oval galleries symmetric to it and an entrance hall. There are very few preserved interiors created by the great architect even on paper (the number of completed interiors is even less). That is why this relic is so valuable, as it has brought to us his masterly skill in plastic arts and space, representing the earliest project of a classical ensemble of such scale in Russia.

The planned interior decoration characteristic of Bazhenov's early creative work is performed in minutest details. Very organic is an unusually rich order and sculptural decor, as it is strictly subordinated to wall architectonics. Rather impressive are mighty columns in the corners of the huge central throne hall and abundance of bas-reliefs devoted to lofty heroic deeds. Architecture of the spacious symmetric galleries adjoining the palace is also elaborately worked out.

The architect was especially interested in picturesque plafonds. In the main halls they were decorated with pictures from Russian history from the time of the prince Ryurik (9th cent.) to the reign of Catherine the Great, and in other rooms—from antique mythology. But craftsmen managed to paint only the ceiling of the front entrance, by the way, the most impressive and beautiful place, with a double Ionic colonnade and round horseshoe staircases, which characterized Bazhenov as a master of complex spatial constructions typical of his creative work. Besides, after the whole work was almost completed, the empress decided to change the architecture of the central part of the palace. As a result, another variant of the model was made hastily (it was not painted but is well preserved).

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After the refusal to construct the Great Kremlin Palace, the existence of the unique piece of work was not easy, though the contemporaries and descendants clearly realized exclusiveness of the outstanding monument of the classical epoch. Of great interest is an assessment given to the monument in 1817 by Nikolai Karamzin, writer, historian and member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences: "In the Kremlin Expedition you should see a nice model of the beautiful Bazhenov palace laid between the Cathedral of Archangel Michael and the Moskva river but soon abandoned because of an inconvenience of the place... The plans of the famous architect Bazhenov became similar to the Republic of Plato or the Utopia of Thomas More: you can marvel at them solely in your thoughts but not in practice."

At the end of 1774, the work of the great architect was brought again to Moscow, damaged heavily on the way. After its repair, the model was assembled again in the model house, where it was displayed as an object of note till early 19th century. Later on the model traveled a lot to different museums and storehouses, and in 1810 it was transferred to specially designed premises in the Kremlin. In 1856, the main façade of the monument was transferred to the Armory, and it was already partly dismantled at that time.

Forty years later the priceless evidence of the history of city-planning art was transferred to the Rumyantsev Museum (today the Russian State Library), where it was stored in boxes. The long-suffering relic came to mind in 1906, when the architectural-and-art department of the Polytechnical Museum was opened. The model was restored, assembled and placed in the exposition, however in 1929 it was returned to the Armory.

Only in March 1936, the model was transferred to the Museum of Architecture of the USSR Academy of Architecture (today Shchusev State Research Museum of Architecture). A year later its best-preserved part was installed in the White Hall of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts at the exhibition devoted to the 200th birth anniversary of Bazhenov. This date gave an impulse to the start of intensive studies of the architect's creative work.

Since then our specialists have made many efforts to reconstruct and restore the model, which was in a sorry state. After that it was assembled and placed at the Great Cathedral of the Moscow Don Monastery, where the Museum of Architecture was situated from 1934. However, in 1991, church life returned to the cathedral, and Bazhenov's work was taken away and, with no sufficient premises available, was dismatled again. During the last two decades scientists have been studying in detail all its parts, examining the age and species of wood, and conduct physical and chemical research of the paint layer. A gradual restoration of the model is now under way, as time, numerous transportation and not always professional renovation naturally led to numerous damages.

We can state without exaggeration the following: to study creative skill and work methods of Bazhenov, the model of the Great Kremlin Palace is most illustrative, its importance and value as the most valuable monument of the classical art culture increase more and more over the years.


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