It plays with light, shines and shimmers: Mikhail Vrubel's majolica fireplace in Bazhanov’s house
The history of an ordinary house of the early XX century, the interiors of which were decorated by Vrubel and Roerich. We talk about the 40-room apartment of the merchant Bazhanov and the fabulous fireplace inside it.
In 1905, the commercial and industrial partnership “F. G. Bazhanov and A. P. Chuvaldina "decided to build a common residential building. The new building was supposed to house 40-room apartments of the managing director, office premises of the board with a meeting room, 30 apartments of company employees, a dormitory for young employees and artisans with a kitchen and a dining room, pantries for storing goods, as well as laundries and other household services up to the stable and the barn.
The project in 1906 was entrusted to a young Kiev architect Pavel Alyoshin, who enthusiastically set to work. The solemn laying of the house took place on June 29, 1907. For the building on Nikolayevskaya Street, 72 (now it is Marat Street), the architect chose the fashionable style of northern Art Nouveau. Construction and finishing were completed after two and a half years.
Alyoshin was not only the architect of the house, but also the head of its construction. The board of directors of the partnership gave him wide powers to conclude and terminate contracts with contractors and suppliers, control the quality and timing of work, and communicate with the City Council on all issues.
The house received six side wings of different floors, three transverse courtyard buildings, as well as a three-story rear wing. & Nbsp; On the first and second floors of the main building there was a 40-room apartment of Philadelph Bazhanov, the main manager of the partnership. He was a hereditary honorary citizen of St. Petersburg, a merchant of the First Guild, a life member of the Russian Assembly, chairman of the board of the Triumphal Manufactory and the St. Petersburg Mutual Credit Society.
The strict facade of Bazhanov’s house is made of light red Gangut granite. A massive bronze door was installed at the main entrance, which Aleshin specially ordered from England. Openwork forged gates with false bronze ornaments were made at the Winkler factory in St. Petersburg.
The interior decoration of Bazhanov’s apartment was completely different: bright and luxurious. Behind the oak tricuspid door is a grand staircase of white Carrara marble. Opposite it, on the second floor there is a host reception room, in which the lining with walnut panels is preserved.
The window openings here are decorated with majolica inserts, made according to the sketches of Mikhail Vrubel. But the main exhibit of the cabinet and the whole house is the majolica fireplace "Volga and Mikula Selyaninovich." It is made according to the sketch of the artist in the workshop of Vaulin and Geldwein.
In fact, there are several such fireplaces, and the first was created specifically for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Mikhail Vrubel together with Peter Vaulin made it in the Abramtsevo workshops near Moscow. The artist received a gold medal, and the color chemist was awarded an honorary diploma. The fireplace was immediately sold to wealthy Europeans, its traces were lost, and the whereabouts are now unknown.
In the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, the Moscow Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts and the Kolomenskoye Museum, collapsible panels according to the plot of the fireplace design have been preserved. But the option in Bazhanov’s house differs from all of them in a special color scheme and a large number of details, since it was made last. Plus, it is the only one fully assembled and decorated.
At first, the drawing of the fireplace blinds with its entire mass. And only after a while in bright spots understandable silhouettes begin to appear. The eye begins to distinguish between the figures of the two main characters of the composition: the plowman-strongman Mikulu in a blue shirt and the hero Volga in armor.
According to the story of the epic, a simple peasant turned out to be stronger than the entire heroic squad, which together could not get the plow away from the arable land, while Mikula himself pulled it out with one hand, and his filly was stronger and faster than any heroic horse. Therefore, the image of the plowman is made more colorful, catchy and as if lit by the sun. The plot of the fireplace is placed in a double arch. Above the firebox there is another double arch, on which fairy snakes with arrow tails and fiery tongues meander. Crowned with the composition of the figures of fabulous birds "Sirin" with girlish heads.
The motives of the old Russian patterned organics are organically conveyed by the artist in the style of modernism. And the technology of regenerative firing, which was discovered by Peter Vaulin together with Mikhail Vrubel, made it possible to turn glazes into metallized coatings. This achieves a special vibration of the surface, iridescence and flicker of color on it. And it seems that the majolica sun is really burning, and the whole fireplace plays with light, shines and shimmers.
The fireplace, by the way, successfully echoes in theme with the “Heroic Frieze” in the Big dining room of Bazhanov’s house. On it, Nicholas Roerich painted Boyan, Volga, Mikula Selyaninovich, Ilya Muromets, Nightingale the Robber and Sadko. Seven large panels have a total length of more than 25 meters. Unfortunately, since 1964 this brilliant example of the “neo-Russian style” has been in the repository of the Russian Museum.
Bazhanov’s house has its own legends. They just can’t find a “fireproof room”, the existence of which is known for certain, but it is not on the plans. And there are also memories of a huge aquarium, which was mounted in the ceilings of a light well above the main staircase. They say that live fish swam in it, among which there was even a catfish, but they could not confirm this tale with documents.
Since 1965, the library has been located in the building on 72 Marat. According to the manager, a big role in preserving the beauty of Bazhanov’s house was played by tenants who saved almost all ten grand interiors with fireplaces, a multi-meter “Athletic frieze”, two modern chandeliers with fifty light bulbs each, and carved wooden decorations. Original oak doors even retain the original locks, and leather upholstery on the sides of the window openings.
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