Imatges de pàgina
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CHAPTER VIII.

PICTURE OF ST. PETERSBURGH.

Continuation of the Imperial and other Buildings and Institutions connected with Science and the Fine Arts. Prevailing taste for the Arts. A self-taught Painter.- Titian and Mr. Sieger.Private Collections of Pictures.- Count Stroganoff's Gallery. — The President d'Olenine. - ACADEMY OF ARTS.-The building.— The Museum. — Public Exhibition by Native Artists. Russian Sculptors and Painters. Professor Vorobieff and his Picture of St. Petersburgh, and of Sunset on the Dead Sea. — Orlowsky. Liberality of Government respecting the Education of Young Artists. THE TRIUMPHAL ARCH of 1812. Society for encouraging Russian Lithography. — Roumiantzow's MUSEUM OF CURIOSITIES. -The HOTEL DES MINES. The building The Establishment compared with others of a similar kind in Europe. Minerals. Mines of Siberia. Large Specimens of Native Gold. — Instruction in practical Mining. Domestic Arrangement for the Students. Produce of the Gold and Platina Mines in the Oural Mountains. Origin of the wealth of the Demidoff Family.The Miner's Hammer. Style of living of the present Privy Counsellor Demidoff.-His death.-SOCIETE ECONOMIQUE LIBRE of St. Petersburgh.-School for Agriculture, Rural Economy, and the Useful Arts, founded by Countess Sophia Stroganoff —Cabinet of Arts and Antiquities of Mons. Svinnin. -THE BOTANIC GARDEN.

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THERE is scarcely a house of any consequence in St. Petersburgh in which one does not find some valuable pictures as part of its decorative furniture. It is a fashion among the great of every capital to embellish their resi dences with paintings; but in St. Petersburgh that practice

appeared to me to extend even farther. It is curious to remark that many of the paintings so applied have been purchased in the English market, where foreign traders have often brought valuable pictures from the Continent, without finding a compensating price for them from the inhabitants. In the mansion of Count Michel Woronzow, some really valuable pictures, selected with great taste in this country and abroad, enliven and give importance to the fine suite of apartments on the principal story. Count Michel, with a decided taste for the Fine Arts, and an anxiety to see them cultivated in his native country, has contributed to the encouragement of Russian artists. I saw at his house the performances of a self-taught painter, originally a peasant on one of the Count's estates, consisting of portraits, which but for a striking singularity in the manner of distributing the light over the figure, would be considered as very creditable performances for an artist who had enjoyed the advantage of a regular education. The singularity to which I allude, consists in throwing the light fully and directly in front of the picture, and not from either side or from behind, with the addition of a very dark ground, so as to give to the head the appearance of a marble bust in relief, placed within a gold frame. I have never had occasion to see such an effect produced in a portrait before; nor can I say that it is to be admired. However, this is not the only instance of original talent in the department of painting in Russia, nor the best, and it is creditable to the Government, as well as to the superior classes, that they afford encouragement to all such gifted individuals. Among the valuable paintings in the house of Count Woronzow, I noticed a Caracci from the gallery of Mr. Watson Taylor, and an undoubted Titian, remarkable for the circumstances connected with its purchase and present condition. The Count happening, one day, to be on his way to a sale of pic

tures in London, accompanied by M. Sieger, noticed outside of another auction room, the advertisement of other paintings for sale, stated to have been the property of a Mr. Harrison. "O!" says Mr. Sieger, "if these be Harrison's pictures there must be a Titian amongst them of great merit, which your Excellency had better look after;" and up-stairs they walked, when the intelligent artist marched straight up to the picture in question-recognized it immediately, although dirty and in a very indifferent condition,-and urged the Count to purchase it at the sale. This was effected in about an hour for little more than 200 guineas, there being at the time very few other purchasers in the room, besides picture-dealers. The painting has proved to be a great prize; and has since been transferred from the panel to canvass, with great success, by a Russian artist, who is allowed by the Emperor to have an attelier in the Hermitage for similar operations, which he has been carrying on for some time in the happiest and most skilful manBut these are not the only remarkable circumstances belonging to the painting in question, for in the course of the process of transferring it from the panel to the canvass, a discovery was made of another painting of the same subject, though treated in a different manner, which had been cancelled or painted over, and of which Count Woronzow took care to have a drawing made, now in his possession. This is, I believe, one of the few examples of a pentimento on so large a scale having been detected in a picture of a celebrated master.

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I might descant also on some of the fine paintings which I had occasion to observe in the houses of Count Laval, Count Poushkine, M. Balk Polleff, and many others, who do not pretend to have galleries or specific collections, but who yet afford as many examples of the prevailing taste among persons of distinction to adorn their residences with

the finer productions of the ancient masters; but such a course is foreign to my purpose, although it would go far to prove that with so marked a taste for the art of painting amongst the better classes of society, it is fair to presume that much will be effected in giving a proper direction, and developing the natural talents of the Russians for that art. I must not, however, dismiss the Palace of Count and Countess Laval without more particularly mentioning, that, independently of its great merits as an architectural monument for taste as well as size, it claims special attention on account of the rich assemblage of antiques, various objects of virtù and rare prints, besides the paintings of great value which decorate three of its largest saloons. The affable and hospitable manner in which the noble host and hostess receive strangers and their own friends, on stated nights, adds greatly to the feelings of gratification experienced in visiting their mansion.

If we look to the professed collections of private individuals, of both paintings and objects of sculpture, as a farther evidence of the spirit with which the Russians encourage and seem attached to those arts, we shall find in St. Petersburgh the Grosvenors, the Staffords, and the Hopes, exhibiting in splendid mansions, assemblages equally surprising of every thing that can illustrate painting as well as sculpture. The collection of the late venerable Count Stroganoff, though less remarkable for the number than for the extreme choice of its pictures and antiques, contains valuable productions of the Italian masters, which even the galleries of the Hermitage cannot boast. The Count had passed almost the whole of his life in the study and contemplation of objects of the fine arts, and being extremely wealthy, the acquisition of the most valuable specimens which attracted his attention in the course of his numerous travels, became a matter of pleasure as well as of necessity to him.

His collection thus became gradually more extensive; and to add to its value, a descriptive catalogue, as well as a finely engraved representation of its contents, were published at his expense. All lovers of the fine arts are admitted to this collection, Russians, as well as strangers, with a liberality highly creditable to the heirs of that excellent nobleman, who, in his life-time, I was told, took great pleasure in himself conducting through the gallery all those strangers who were admitted, or had been invited to view it, pointing out to them the several beauties, and the interesting history of several of the precious objects contained in it. This collection is in the Palace of the Stroganoffs, a very striking pile of building situated in the Nevskoï Prospekt, near the Moïka Canal.

But it is time to turn to the consideration of what the Government itself seems to have done for the encouragement of the fine arts in this modern capital of the Empire. A fortunate circumstance had procured me the acquaintance of the President of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, Monsieur d'Olenine, a name well known to antiquaries, and a gentleman heartily devoted to science and literature, between which, and the public service, in a civil capacity of high trust, (being Member of the Imperial Council,) he divides his time and attention. Furnished with his letter to the resident Director, I lost not a moment in visiting that establishment. The Russians are indebted for the foundation of this Academy to their Empress Elizabeth, to whom it was suggested by Count Shouvaloff. At first its endowment was only 92,000 roubles a-year, but Catherine, with the present house, also augmented the annual income for its support to three times that sum, and it has since received from the munificence of succeeding sovereigns a farther addition. Of the building

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