Moscow private collections formed in the late 19th century and their fate in 1918-1924
My subject is exceedingly broad. I will touch upon the history of a large number of collections and museums in which various kinds of art were represented. But as my time is limited and as my research is focused on painting, I shall speak now mostly about the history of collections of painting. The examples will be paintings in the Pushkin Art Museum that were formerly in private collections.
The history of Moscow collections of Western European art can be traced back to the 18th century. The richest collections belonging to Russian noble families – such as the Princes Yussupov, Golitsin and others – were kept in palaces and country seats in and around Moscow. The first Museum of Fine Arts, opened to the public in 1810, was the Gallery of the Municipal Hospital, built by one of the Counts Golitsin. It did not last long. Nor did the other private galleries opened in the first half of the 19th century. Educated nobles who were interested in literature and in fine arts discussed the founding of a Moscow Museum of the History of Classic Art. The necessity for such a museum, meeting the cultural needs of the people, was persistently spoken and written of after 1857, the year when a Department of the History of the Arts was established at Moscow University. Under the influence of those discussions, in 1861 the Ministry of Education decided to transfer to Moscow the museum established by Count Rumiantsev in St. Petersburg and to organize a new public museum in Moscow. Two hundred Western European paintings were selected for the new museum in the Hermitage. The famous “Christ Appearing to the People” by Alexander Ivanov was also removed to Moscow.
The Public Museum and the Rumiantsev Museum, which included various collections and the library, were housed in one building and had a joint Managing Board. Both institutions commonly went under the name “the Rumiantsev Museum”. The picture gallery consisted at first chiefly of Italian, Flemish and Dutch paintings. Among the latter were “The feast of Esther” by Rembrandt and “Lot and his Daughters” by Arent de Gelder. The foundation of this first state public Museum in Moscow, opened in 1862, made quite an impression. Muscovites with private collections began to donate individual works of art and even entire collections to the institution.
In the second half of the 19th century Moscow and its surroundings still housed various old collections belonging to noble families. Part of the very rich collection of Prince Yussupov was kept at his estate at Arkhangelskoye, while since 1831 the other part was kept in St. Petersburg. In the Kuskovo and Ostankino estates of the Counts Sheremetev there were picture galleries. In Ostafievo, which belonged to Prince Vyazemsky and then to the Counts Sheremtev, there was an outstanding collection of paintings. The Moscow collection of the Princes Golitsin even enjoyed the status of a museum from the 1860s to the 1880s. In 1886, however, it was sold to the state and removed to the Hermitage. The collections arranged at the city mansions of the nobles were sometimes of the highest artistic level. One such collection was that of the Mossolovs, which was later sold to an engraver with a passion for Dutch prints and who even reproduced Rembrandt paintings in etching himself. Fine collections belonged to the Mokhanovs, Khomyakov, Issakov, Trofimovich, and many others.
However, the most characteristic phenomenon of Moscow cultural life in the second half of the 19th century was the formation of the prominent collections of art belonging to the middle class. For several generations, dedicated individuals directed the energies and abilities that had brought them success in industry and trade to the collecting of works of art. Among the oldest of this group were the Tretyakovs, Soldatenkov, Kokorev, Brocard, Zubalov, and among the youngest the brothers Morozov, the Ryabushinskis and the Schukins. These collectors (there were many others as well) were closely associated with artists, musicians, university professors. Art collecting was not their only pastime. As a rule, collecting was linked in their minds with the idea of public education. They organized exhibitions, established new museums and donated or bequeathed works of art to existing ones. It is a significant fact that the Korkorev family opened a private museum of fine arts to the public at the same time as the Rumiantsev Museum. The picture gallery of Pavel Tretyakov, containing a collection of Russian painting, and Sergey Tretyakov’s collection of Western European painting of the 19th century were donated to the city of Moscow in 1892. Pyotr Schukin created and opened to the public the Museum of Russian Relics of the Past, which later became a branch of the Museum of History. Henry Brocard, the owner of a perfumery, exhibited his wide-ranging collection of painting and applied art at the Upper Stalls on Red Square. Ivan Morozov and Sergey Schukin were the most sensitive collectors in the city. They were men who understood the spirit of the age and had a feeling for the new tendencies in art. They formed wonderful collections of modern French painting in their houses. Schukin’s collection was open to visitors.
Soldatenkov bequeathed his large collection of Russian painting to the Rumiantsev Museum, the picture gallery of which increased by a factor of five in the 50 years of its existence. The Khomyakov donation, made in 1901, was of the utmost importance for the Italian section of the Rumiantsev Museum. It included fourteen works by Italian painters of the 14th-15th centuries who were not previously represented in the museum. In the same year the Rumiantsev Museum received the Soldatenkov bequest and in 1902 General Trofimovich’s daughter donated 63 pictures, mostly by Dutch and Flemish painters, in memory of her father. In 1903 Dmitry Schukin donated 19 pictures by painters of various schools, including the Dutch School; in 1913 the museum got 21 pictures from the Issakov collection; in 1914 a collection of painting, drawing and sculpture was bequeathed by Mosselov; and in 1917 40 pictures from the collection of the oil baron Zubalov were donated by his widow and son.
In 1915 the Fine Arts section of the Rumiantsev Museum, headed since 1910 by Nikolay Romanov, professor of art history at Moscow University, was given a new building for its picture gallery. In the same year the Society of the Friends of the Museum was organized, which many collectors joined at once. In 1915 the Society organized a large exhibition of Western European painting from Moscow private collections. The Dutch school was widely represented at the exhibition.
The Rumiantsev Museum, with its collections of painting and sculpture and its printroom, could meet only part of the requirements of the educated Moscow public. The need was felt for a Museum of Classical Art as well. The philologist Ivan Tsvetaev worked out plans for such a museum of copies and casts of masterpieces of art from ancient times to the Renaissance. This professor at Moscow University was also head of the Department of Fine Arts and later Director of the Rumiantsev Museum). Owing to his enthusiasm and energy, the project was endowed by financiers and rich merchants. The building was erected on Volkhonka Street, and casts of the famous masterpieces of sculpture were made and brought to Moscow. When the Museum was opened to the public in 1912 it possessed original works of art as well. These came from the Golenishev collection of ancient Egyptian relics, purchased by the state, and the collection of Italian painting of the 13th-15th centuries donated by Schukin. The Museum was managed by Moscow University and was considered an educational institution.
Thus, on the eve of the Revolution Moscow had a museum of casts and some original works where one could get acquainted with the history of art up to the Renaissance, and two museums with extensive collections of Russian painting from the 18th century on as well as fine specimens of Western European painting from the early Renaissance to the 19th century. (I leave out of consideration the Museum of History, which possessed very rich collections, because it is a separate subject on its own.) In addition to the public museums, the city also boasted many private collections, ranging from ancient Russian icons to the most daring experiments of the modern Western European schools. Exhibitions of old and modern painting were regularly organized. Naturally enough, a market in art and antiques also came into being. Its links with the European market were broken off by the First World War.
The October Revolution plunged the museums into utter confusion. The education of the illiterate and ignorant poor classes of society was proclaimed one of the most important goals of the moment, so that the art world was called upon to help the Revolution. The authorities demanded that the museums play an active role in this aim and supported this project financially. Not a few people in the art world were sincerely carried away by the challenge of cultural education. Some saw the Revolution as a rare opportunity for a general reorganization of the museums of Russia. These projects could sometimes take extreme forms. One plan, for example – the Kremlin Acropolis – called for the transfer of all the treasures of the Moscow museums to the Kremlin. As far back as 1918 work was begun on the project that was eventually to be effectuated. This involved the organization of three major museums in Moscow, one for Russian Art, one for Western European Art and one for Oriental Art. In addition, there were to be a number of supplementary museums, such as the Museum of History. All the holdings of all the Moscow collections were to be distributed among those museums. At first the project seemed completely unrealistic, but in the end it was reverted to. The 1920s were the period of utopian planning.
That was one side of the story. There was another, less idealistic side as well. Even in 1917 it was clear that the treasures of art belonging to the royal palaces, rich mansions and estates were in danger of robbery and destruction; the Provisional Government and the City Council of Moscow organized committees for the seizure and preservation of the royal property in Petrograd and Moscow. In October and the following months the danger increased. With fighting and shooting going on in the streets and armed robbery the order of the day, anarchists invaded rich mansions and ignorant soldiers confiscated the property of the rich families. It was inevitable that works of art would be lost and damaged. The problem was recognized not only by the owners and the keepers of museums. The entire art world and many of the authorities also understood the extent of the crisis.
Many owners brought their collections to the relatively safe museums for safekeeping. Among the works that entered the Rumiantsev Museum were some that had been shown at the 1915 exhibition. These included more than 30 Italian, Dutch and Flemish paintings that belonged to Gogorov; paintings, furniture and porcelain belonging to a member of the Museum Friends Society, Gorshanov. (One of these was a genuine though uncharacteristic still a life by Abraham van Beyeren.) Four boxes with paintings and prints were brought from the house of the Grabrichevskis, who had inherited a collection formed in the middle of the 19th century. (One of its rarities was a “Smoker” signed by Jurriaen van Streeck). The chairman of the Museum Friends Society, Count Khreptovich-Butenev, also brought his paintings to the Rumiantsev Museum. These works were brought to Moscow from the family country seat in Minsk province, where they decorated the palace of Count Ioachim Khreptovich, the last Chancellor of the Great Lithuanian principality. Among them were wonderful panoramic landscapes by Jan van Kessel and Philips Koninck. It was supposed that the objects would be returned to the owners in due time, but in the event this soon became problematical. The situation in the Tretyakov Gallery was the same. There a conflict arose in 1918 between the director, the artist and art critic Igor Grabar, and the staff. Grabar wished to return the property to the owners, but the staff did not. In 1922 the People’s Commissariat of Education sent out aggressive letters prohibiting the museums from returning such collections to their owners. In spite of this, the Rumiantsev Museum returned some of the exhibits as late as 1922-23. In effect, however, art that was entrusted to the museums under these conditions was confiscated, whether the owners remained in Russia or emigrated.
In order to give you an idea of the enormous numbers of the works of art that entered the Rumiantsev Museum in this period, I must say a few words about the other forms of transfer that took place in 1919-20. Not only owners, but also officials and volunteers sometimes brought endangered works of art to the museums. This was particularly the case of property left behind by emigrants who abandoned their mansions and estates as well as the art in banks, pawnshops and shops. In this way the Rumiantsev Museum acquired more than one interesting collection. One example is the collection Of Maria Gracheva, a woman who had earlier presented the museum with a painting by Bramer. Among the works she left in a pawnshop were paintings by Swanevelt and Knüpfer.
The museum lacked space for the arrangement of the newly received collections. In January 1918 an honorary member of the museum, Lev Zubalov junior, proposed to use his father’s mansion as an annex. He was given a safe conduct, and in this way a branch of the Rumiantsev Museum came into being. At first only works intended for the Rumiantsev Museum were brought to the Zubalov mansion, but soon this house became one of the depositories of the State Museum Fund, to which I will return below. For several years the branch of the Rumiantsev Museum and the depository of the State Museum Fund were regarded as one institution and had the same keeper – Lev Zubalov junior. At a given moment, however, the branch of the Rumiantsev Museum was disbanded. This episode is only one of the many complications that have to be sorted out in reconstructing the complex history of post. Revolutionary activities involving art and museums.
The epoch was marked by several kinds of contradictory changes. Collections were being destroyed and dispersed, while an incredible number of new museums were being founded. There were ongoing efforts to rescue works of art and transfer them to museums, but the groups and committees busy with this work were involved in endless disputes and quarrels. One cannot describe this mess in few words. All I can do now is to give a few examples.
The above mentioned safe conduct given to Lev Zubalov junior was an important document in the winter of 1917-18. All owners of more or less interesting objects of art did their best to obtain one. The Bolshevik propagated the slogan “Art belongs to the People,” but this sentiment was not translated into actual law. The first document of this kind was contained in a telegram sent by Lenin to the representative of one of the local Soviets on the 19th of December 1917. It stated “The estates are the property of the People” and ordered the recipient to draw up a list of all objects of value in former family estates and to preserve them in a safe place. Nevertheless, particularly in the early stages of the Revolution, institutions responsible for the preservation of works of art took it upon themselves to protect private collections from confiscation and damage.
Immediately after the October upheaval and in the beginning of 1918 at least five commissions and committees for the preservation of the works of art were organized. The first were the Committee for the Preservation of Works of Art and Monuments of the Past, the members of which were mostly architects and artists and which reported to the Moscow Soviet, and the Committee of the People’s Commissariat of Property. A little later the People’s Commissariat of Education formed a Section for the Management of Museums and Preservation of the Works of Art and Monuments of the Past, usually called the Museum Section. The functionaries in the Museum Section were specialists such as art historians and museum curators. The Section later was put in charge of all museums and private collections, although the Committee of the Moscow Soviet continued to operate for several years. These three Committees were involved in constant disputes. Their bureaucratic behavior stood in the way of the solution of the complicated practical problems with which they were faced.
The Committee of the Moscow Soviet, which met in the Kremlin, took responsibility for gathering and preserving valuable property abandoned by wealthy emigrants. The committee was also put in charge of historical monuments, buildings and collections still remaining in the possession of private owners. One of the instruments at their disposal was the safe conduct. An owner in possession of such a document was protected from eviction, and his goods from requisition. The safe-conduct was employed on quite a large scale. In the month of September 1918 alone 29 were issued for collections, 46 for libraries and 116 for artists’ studios. By the beginning of 1918 all the best collections had already been safeguarded. For example, as far back as February Count Sheremetev thanked the Committee of the Moscow Soviet for its care of Kuskovo. In this period the rights of collectors were more or less recognized. In March 1918 a resolution of the Committee referred to several important collections, including those of Ivan Morozov, Sergey Schukin and Dmitry Schukin, as having been donated to the Republic of Russia but as being in the possession of their former owners. What was happening was that the collections were being nationalized little by little. This is obvious from a succession of decrees issued by the government in 1918.
The Decree of the 3rd of June declared the nationalization of the Tretyakov Gallery, which until then belonged to the City of Moscow. The Decree of the 5th of November announced the nationalization of the gallery of Sergey Schukin, with its outstanding collection of modern Western European painting. The Decree of the 19th of December declared the nationalization of Ivan Morozov’s famous collection of modern Western European art, the icons belonging to Ivan Ostroukhov, and Alexey Morozov’s porcelain. The nationalization of the museum-estates Arkhangelskoye, Kuskovo and Ostankino was also decreed.
It did not take long before the collections that had been proclaimed to be national property were opened to the public. The formal basis for this was provided by the Decree of the 19th of September, which prohibited the export and ordered the registration and preservation of works of art and antiquities in general, and that of the 5th of October, which specified that this applied to goods owned by private persons, societies and institutions. No decree was ever ordered the total nationalization of works of art. Nevertheless, within one short year most known collections passed to the state. Only collections that nobody was aware of sometimes remained in the possession of their owners, and indeed some of these still belong to the their heirs. Private ownership of art was also facilitated by the continued functioning of a commercial art market in Russia, which made it possible for new collections to be formed. This actually began to happen in the 1920s. However, that is a subject for a different paper.
The least painful part of the nationalization process was the transformation of large mansions that were luxuriously decorated and furnished and full of art works into public museums. Such was the destiny of many country seats in the immediate vicinity of Moscow. Estates in the provinces generally met a different fate. At best, the art works were removed. For example, officials managed to remove the objects of value from the estate of Prince Baryatinsky in Kursk Province. Some of the mansions and country seats that were opened to the public after the Revolution are functioning museums to this very day. That is the case of Arkhangelskoye, Kuskovo, Ostankino, Abramtsevo and Muranovo. Many others (Ostafievo is an example) were closed within a few years and turned into hospitals, sanatoriums or other institutions. The paintings, sculptures and other works of art on these estates were passed on to Moscow museums and the State Museum Fund.
Several collections of Russian and Western European art were parceled out among the so’ called Proletarian Museums. The development of these institutions was closely connected with the activities of the State Museum Fund. The task of the Committee of the Moscow Soviet and the Museum Section of the People’s Commissariat of Education was not limited to registration and the issuing of safe conducts. It also extended to the distribution of the numerous art works in state possession. Art that was requisitioned or abandoned by owners who had emigrated, fled or been arrested; rarities discovered in antique shops, pawnshops, banks, etc., were removed partly to museums and partly to other premises designated by the city. Among them were the building of the English Club and several private houses. As mentioned above, the Zubalov mansion, situated near the Red Gates, was also a depository of the State Museum Fund. For this purpose it was equipped with a diesel power station, which was a great advantage in 1918-1922, when the winters were very cold. The staff of the depository managed to keep the temperature in the rooms six or ten degrees above zero, which was quite an achievement in post revolutionary Moscow. From 1924 until its disbandment in 1928 the Zubalov Mansion was a central depository of the State Museum Fund. In that decade the depository received thousands of art works. The staff worked hard registering all the objects, systematizing them, making inventories, and also organizing various exhibitions. In the other depositories the situation was the same.
In 1918 it was proposed to distribute all the accumulated art works among Proletarian Museums to be established in each of the districts of Moscow. The idea was put into practice with feverish haste. Eight Proletarian Museums, some with sections and annexes, were opened in about a year and a half. Some of the annexes were the houses or flats of collectors, turned into museums. Among them was the house of Brocard with an interesting collection to which I will return below. Another was a mere curiosity: a little wooden mansion furnished in the middle of the 19th century, now renamed The Museum of Everyday Life of the Past. Its owners, the brother of the prominent Russian poet Vladislav Khodasevich and his wife, were appointed keepers of the museum, with a charter that prohibited them from receiving more than five visitors at a time.
As a rule, to house a Proletarian Museum, the officials had to find a suitable building and then fill it with various collections and art works. Because the exhibits were gathered in the district where the museum was being organized, this led to chance combinations that could be quite peculiar. To offset this effect, the displays from local sources would often be supplemented with works from the State Museum Fund. That was not the end of the story, however. In their urge to improve the mix, officials would remove and replace the paintings and sculptures, furniture and china again and again, transporting them by cart from one museum to another.
This ceaseless migration of works of art went on in Moscow for four or five years. In the report of one of the Proletarian Museums, opened in autumn 1918, it is stated that up to autumn 1919 400 carts were used for the delivery of art works to the museum and for their transportation to other institutions. Next year 10,000 exhibits were delivered to that museum by 68 carts. The staff made lists, drew up statements, the works were exhibited, and then several months later everything had to be changed again. Though the public attended the Proletarian Museums with pleasure they did not last long. They suffered from financial difficulties; the local authorities often desired to use their buildings for other purposes; and the gap between dream and reality was all too apparent in most of them. The closing down of the Proletarian Museums did not take place all at the same time. When one of them was closed, others wanted to get its property, so the migrations continued for quite a long period.
Concerning some of the Proletarian Museums we are quite well informed. One of these was the First Proletarian Museum, which was opened in the house of Loeve on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street on the first anniversary of the Great October Revolution. These museums were very much products of their time. The curators tried to place as many exhibits as possible in the available rooms. Lack of space did not deter them. They wanted to acquaint the public with as many possible kinds and national schools of art. There were rooms devoted to Russian, Western European and Oriental art; there were paintings, sculptures and icons, applied art, furniture, carpets and arms. The guides were instructed to tell visitors about the distinguishing features of the national schools of art, and to point out to them examples of mutual influence between cultures. That, at least, was the idea. In reality, all they could do was to evoke the feeling of a collector’s cabinet, filled to the brim with miscellaneous objects. Moreover, the exposition constantly changed. In 1919 the First Proletarian Museum received a large collection of Western European painting an chapel of icons and a lot of works of applied art. At the end of 1921 it exhibited an assemblage of Russian and Oriental porcelain and a collection of Russian painting, from icons to the 20th century. The Western European paintings brought to the First Proletarian Museum in spring 1919 were soon removed to the newly organized Fifth Proletarian Museum of the Rogozhsko-Simonovsky district. It was situated outside the center of Moscow, not far from Taganskaya Square. At first this museum was supposed to show Russian painting and applied art, but shortly after it was founded the above mentioned collection of Western European painting was brought there. Most of them came from the former collection of Ludwig Mandl, concerning which we do not know very much.
A partner in an important trade firm, Mandl owned paintings of various schools. In 1909, we know, he presented two Russian pictures to the Rumiantsev Museum. His main interest lay in Flemish and Dutch masters. Mandl possessed such paintings as “King Solomon meets the Queen of Sheba” by Hans Vredeman de Vries, an “Allegory of Taste” by Jan Brueghel, “The King drinks” by David Ryckaert, and a fish still life by Pieter de Putter. Besides the Mandl collection, the Fifth Proletarian Museum also displayed exhibits from other important Moscow collections such as that of Khristie. This made it indeed possible to form quite a representative exposition of European painting, occupying most of the rooms in the house. Unfortunately, we have neither photographs nor plans of the hanging. Judging from the surviving evidence and documents, we can say that furniture and objects of applied art were exhibited together with paintings in the Fifth (as well as the First) Proletarian Museum and that an attempt was made to represent all kinds of art, all epochs and all national schools. The museum had a pronounced educational function. Its curators delivered lectures and organized excursions and concerts. The museum ran an art school and gave courses on the history of art. In this way it functioned as a cultural center for the Rogozhsko-Simonovsky district. Despite the hardships of life at the time, the museum and its programs were well attended. For example, from the 28th of August to the 4th of September it was visited by 175 persons; a lecture was given on “The Art of the 17th Century in the Works of Dutch and Flemish Painters” and a concert called “The Night of Moods” was organized. It is noteworthy that all of this was done by one man. A statement drawn up after an official inspection states that there was only one specialist on art there, the artist Nikolay Khodataev, appointed Head of the Museum. He was responsible for the registration and preservation of the exhibits, for all excursions and lectures. He lived in the same building where the museum was housed, with his wife and five untrained assistants. Their mode of life was quite patriarchal. There was no strict differentiation between the living quarters and the museum premises. Receipts for the delivery of works of art were written by hand on scraps of paper. Nikolay Khodataev seems to have been a genuine enthusiast. He persistently tried to get new exhibits for his museum and to build a library of books on art. In 1920-22 he managed to acquire paintings, china, furniture and books from the First, Third, Fourth and Sixth Proletarian Museums. At first the Fifth Museum was subordinated to the District Soviet, but in 1923 it was passed on to the People’s Commissariat of Education and was made a branch of the Tretyakov Gallery. All exhibits not belonging to the Russian school were taken away at that point. The independent-minded Khodataev was discharged by the Managing Board of the Gallery. With that move the days of the museum were counted. When it was closed in the summer of 1925, it was the last existing Proletarian Museum.
The history of the Fifth Proletarian Museum was typical for Moscow museum life in the beginning of the 1920s. We are better informed about it because its records are still preserved in the archives, while many of the other little museums have left no traces of their activities. After the Fifth Proletarian Museum was disbanded, its collection of Western European painting was removed to the Picture Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, founded in 1924, of which more below.
To conclude these remarks about the Proletarian Museums, let us look at the most interesting of the mansions that was put to this purpose: the mansion of Alexander Brocard, with its collection of Western European art. In 1920-22 it was proclaimed a branch of the Second Proletarian Museum of the Zamoskvoretsky district, also called the Museum of the Relics of the Past. The owner of the house was a son of Henry Brocard, whose has been mentioned above. The father’s collecting activities began with a chance purchase in 1872. Within twenty years after that he built one of the most important art collections in Moscow. The nicest, kindest and most eccentric of all Moscow art-lovers, as one of his acquaintances, an antique dealer, called him in his memoirs, Henry Brocard could not refuse to buy any work offered by a poor or very persistent seller. He bought paintings, miniatures and objects of applied art indiscriminately; among them were such masterpieces and rare paintings as “The Old Coquette” by Bernardo Strozzi and “Christ Driving the Money lenders from the Temple” by Rembrandt. Henry Brocard and then his widow showed the collection to the public; in the very beginning of the 20th century it was divided into three parts which passed to the sons of the collector, Alexander and Emile, and to his son in law Pavel Giraud (who inherited the Rembrandt). The eldest son, Alexander, installed his part of the collection in his mansion. The house was even provided with a top lit room, so that when the mansion was converted into a museum no serious changes were necessary. Paintings were exhibited there together with objects of applied art. As a journalist wrote in 1922: “Undoubtedly genuine works hang side by side with the mediocre, and the old-fashioned mechanical bird-twitters in cages divert the visitors’ attention from the pictures.
Though its out of date and amateurish atmosphere could be a little trying, the Brocard Museum of the Relics of the Past compared favorably with other Proletarian Museums if only because it presented to the public a genuine private collection, formed naturally and not artificially reconstituted. The collection had a strong character of its own and its artistic level was high enough. The attentive visitor could concentrate on the best exhibits from various schools. Among them was “The Flagellation” by Johann Koerbecke, a landscape by Bernardo Peruzzini with figures by Alessandro Magnasco, a portrait attributed to Corneille de Lyon, “The Ball” by Marten Pepyn, “Saint John the Baptist Preaching” by Alexander Keirinckx, “Head of a Girl” supposedly by Cornelis de Vos, and a family portrait by Jan Mytens.
The disbanding of the Proletarian Museums in 1922-1924 coincided with other, much more important changes in Moscow museum life. At this point plans that been drafted as far back as 1918 began to be carried out. The Tretyakov Gallery became the major Museum of National Art, and the Russian part of the collection of the Rumiantsev Museum was moved there. At first it was planned to concentrate all the old masters in the Rumiantsev Museum and even to move part of the Hermitage collection there. But it was not to be. In 1923 it was decided to disband the picture gallery of the Rumiantsev Museum. The Museum Section of the People’s Commissariat of Education suggested that the Central Museum of Western Art be housed in the building of the Museum of Fine Arts, which had been transferred from Moscow University to the People’s Commissariat of Education. In autumn 1923 a resolution to this effect was issued by the government, and in March 1924 another one followed, concerning the reorganization of the Museum of Fine Arts. This institution was now to receive the Western European art from the Picture Gallery of the Rumiantsev Museum (including the private collections which entered it in 1918-20); the printroom of the Rumiantsev Museum; and the collections of Brocard, Mandl and Dmitry Schukin. The transfer of the Western European paintings from the Hermitage was also mentioned in that document. Several rooms of the Museum of Fine Arts were opened in November 1924, at a time when the formation of the holdings was still in progress. The museum also received works from other sources. Foremost was the State Museum Fund, the acquisitions from which included objects from Moscow private collections that had already been through the Proletarian Museums. The Museum of Fine Arts also received works from several estate museums, some of which lost their museum status at the end of the 1920s, and from Moscow museums, such as the 19th-century Western European paintings from the collection of Sergey Tretyakov.
The acquisition by the Museum of Fine Arts of a lot of wonderful paintings from the Hermitage, in several installments, goes beyond the limits of this paper. Nor can we deal with the fate of the acquisitions that somehow left the Museum of Fine Arts. Suffice it to say that in the 1920s and particularly in the 1930s some of the exhibits were removed to other museums and some were sold through antique shops.
In conclusion I would like to dwell in detail on the collection of Dmitry Schukin, which is of prime importance for the Department of Dutch painting of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, as the museum has since been renamed. Dmitry Schukin belonged to a famous family of rich merchants. He is now less known than his brothers Sergey and Pyotr. Sergey Schukin, whose taste was revolutionary for the epoch, collected modern French painting from the Impressionists to Matisse and Picasso. Pyotr was one of the first to collect old Russian art. He erected two museum buildings, which were bequeathed to the city. As compared with his brothers, the taste of Dmitry Schukin may seem more traditional. Nevertheless, his collection was really remarkable. Dmitry Schukin took active part in the family business, but his main occupation, his passion, was for art collecting. He began with applied art, then got interested in bronze sculpture of the 16th-18th centuries and in miniatures. Eventually he turned entirely to old master paintings and drawings. His passion for collecting was permanent and persistent. Of course, he could not avoid mistakes. Maybe the most disappointing was his reluctance to purchase a picture by Vermeer. Dmitry frequented the antique shops of Moscow and often went abroad to visit antiquarians and auctions. He had his own agents and contacts with other collectors, with whom he sometimes exchanged pictures. He also bought books on art history and consulted with painters, art-lovers and art historians in Russia as well as abroad. Wilhelm von Bode was one of his main advisers and friends.
Dmitry Schukin’s collection was kept in his Moscow mansion. Like the Brocard collection it was a kind of house museum. Unfortunately, we have no full description of this museum, which was displayed more systematically than that of Brocard. The dinings room was decorated with Dutch still lifes, and the drawing-room with landscapes and genre scenes. What we do have is the list of the works that later entered the Museum of Fine Arts and some other Russian museums. The story of Dmitry Schukin’s collection can be regarded as the final chapter of the history of private collecting in Moscow. It embodied Moscow taste in western painting with its preference for France and Holland. Many works from the Schukin collection had passed through earlier Russian collections. An example is the provenance of Schukin’s Philips Wouwerman. This picture from the collection of the Duke of Orléans was sold in London and then, through the English dealer Tioro, came to Russia, where it was purchased by Mossolov before it entered the Schukin collection. Both the picture by Adriaen van de Velde and “The Pothouse” by Teniers have similar provenances. The latter passed through the collections of Vassilchikov, Tuchkov and Vlassov before being acquired by Schukin. The works by Jacob van Ruisdael and Saftleven were formerly in the collection of the Golitsin family; the Abraham van Beyeren was purchased from the collection of Prince Obolensky; and the Jan van Goyen from the widow of an other Russian writer, Dmitry Grigorovich. Some pictures were bought or exchanged in Moscow from famous Moscow collectors such as Trofimovich, Brocard and others.
Among the Moscow collectors who became intimate friends of Dmitry Schukin were Shaikevich, who wrote the first small article devoted to the Schukin collection, and Mossolov. Schukin often bought pictures through Moscow antique dealers, with whom he had easy-going relations. Thus, he bought his famous “Head of a Girl” by Boucher for a hundred rubles and a box of cigars. Every year Schukin traveled abroad, where he bought pictures himself (for example, the picture by Avercamp in Vienna) or through his agents, especially Mikhail Savostin, who brought in the two capriccios by Guardi. As we have mentioned, Schukin often donated pictures to the Rumiantsev Museum and was planning to bequeath his entire collection to the museum. After the Revolution Schukin was one of the first to get a safe conduct. This circumstance was undoubtedly linked to his stated intention to donate his collection to the state. His collection was transformed into the Museum of Old Western Art and opened to the public before the year 1918 was out. Schukin became a curator in the Department of Arts of the Moscow Soviet. Thereafter he worked for the Museum Section of the People’s Commissariat of Education while at the same time remaining keeper of his own museum. The Museum of Old Western Art existed only till 1921, when the house was converted to other purposes and the collection was transported to the lower floor of the house of Ivan Morozov. Schukin lived in a small room in that house until his death. When his collection passed to the Museum of Fine Arts, he was appointed one of the keepers of the Picture Gallery. His life was far from easy. Although he was no longer a well todo person, he continued to donate books and prints to the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1926 he presented one more picture to the museum, a “Vanitas” by Vincent van der Venne. When Dmitry Schukin died in 1932 he was totally blind.
Today the Dmitry Schukin collection forms a part of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. It includes not only pictures, but also sculptures, furniture and applied art. The porcelain collection was transferred to the estate museum of Kuskovo. The Schukin collection is of major importance for the Picture Gallery of the Pushkin Museum. While the collector considered himself an expert in Dutch and French painting, his range of interests was wider. He was also interested in Italian art from the Early Renaissance on. Many masterpieces of our Italian Department came from his collection. These include the “Virgin and Child with Saints” by Rosello di Jacopo Franchi, the only work in Russia by this master, and the statuette by Jacopo Sansovino. The room devoted to 18th-century Italian painting contains two marvelous capriccios by Guardi and “View of Königstein Castle” by Bernardo Bellotto from the Schukin collection. The pride of the French Department of the museum – the “Head of a Girl” by Boucher, the “Lady in the Garden” by Lancret and a grisaille by Chardin – are Schukin paintings. The choice of French masters in his collection was truly exquisite. He admired not only the paintings of Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard and Robert but also appreciated the high artistic value of their drawings, examples of which are now in the Graphic Department of the museum. The room devoted to French art of the 17th-18th centuries is richly decorated by furniture and sculptures from the Schukin collection. Among them are small replicas of bronze groups by Gaspar Marsy, François Girardon, Pierre Lepautre, authentic replicas of the Cupid by Falconet and the portrait bust of Adelaïde of Savoye by Antoine Coysevox.
The most important contribution of Dmitry Schukin to the collection of the Pushkin Museum consists of pictures of the northern schools. The earliest group includes pieces by the Master of Lichtenstein Castle, “The Silver Age” by Lucas Cranach and German wooden sculptures of the 16th century; “Christ” by Jan Mostaert, “The road to Calvary” by Michel Sittow and portraits by Adriaen Key. The Flemish painting that was the star attraction in Schukin’s collection is the “Cupid” formerly given to Van Dyck but now considered to be an old replica. Schukin possessed three masterpieces by Teniers and a still life by Jan Davidsz. de Heem. More than 40 pictures by Dutch masters testify to the acute taste and the fine flair of the collector, as well as his sensibleness in consulting such experts as Wilhelm von Bode. Judgments concerning some of the pictures have necessarily unchanged. For instance, “A Music Lesson” formerly ascribed to Terborch is now considered a school product. In general, however, Schukin’s choices have stood the test of time. Particularly noteworthy are “The interior of a Church” by Jan van der Vucht, “The Interior of the New Church in Delft” by Hendrick van der Vliet, the “Skating Scene” by Hendrick Avercamp (the only Avercamp in Russia), the “View of the Waal River” by van Goyen and “The Hunters’ Return” by Philips Wouwerman.
Schukin’s predilection for Dutch still-lifes has enriched our collection with a “Breakfast” by Pieter Claesz., a magnificent picture by Willem Kalf, a “Vanitas” by Matthias Withoos as well as a fish still-life by van Beyeren and works by van Streeck, Jacob van Walskapelle and the aforementioned “Vanitas” by van der Venne. Dmitry Schukin also owned important examples of history painting, rounding out the display of the Dutch school in the museum: “The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen” Bartholomeus Breenbergh and “Pilate washing his Hands” by Nicolaus Knüpfer. This mere enumeration of some important pictures from the Schukin collection should give an idea of its significance for our museum. This brief sketch of the Dmitry Schukin collection completes in a sense the history of collecting in Moscow before the Revolution.
Page last updated on 3 June 2002