The exhibition is located in the long suite of the Venetian Museum Correr. It develops into a whole epic with many chapters, sub-chapters, inserted novellas. Its initiators: the ROSIZO Museum and Exhibition Center and the City Museums of Venice. The project is included in the program of the year of friendship between Russia and Italy. Twenty Russian museums participate in it, including private collections.
The beginning and end of the enfilade, densely populated mainly with architectural images, are fixed by two models standing in the center of the first and last halls. In the first room there is a model of the Villa Rotonda Palladio. Not quite ordinary. More precisely, quite unusual. Handicraft production: moderately worn, approximate. However, simple-minded, sincere and executed with the greatest reverence for the original. This could be created by a craftsman from the proletkult circle, sitting after work in some club designed by the avant-garde artist. We look at the explication: and for sure. The model was created by the folk craftsman Alexander Lyubimov. True, he did not work in the clubs of the Moscow trade unions designed by Melnikov, but in the glorious Dmitrov near Moscow. There is an exact date of creation: June 1935. The model is kept in the St. Petersburg Museum of the Academy of Arts.
In the last room: a model made in 1997 by the conceptual architect Alexander Brodsky. This is a house of the Soviet architectural Empire of the totalitarian era, made of raw clay on a metal frame, tilting at an angle like a sinking ship. Authorship of Zholtovsky, most likely.
These two models define two positions in the interpretation of Palladianism in Russia and its influence on the fate of Russian architecture. The first aspect: the charming inarticulate reverence for Palladio ensures the flourishing of art. And not only architecture. According to the curator of the exhibition, Arkady Ippolitov, painted in white (walls) and black (roof) Lyubimov's model (if you look at it from above) resembles the Suprematist compositions of Malevich and his students: a black circle inscribed in a white square. Here it is appropriate to recall the proletkult circles that were located in the citadels of the avant-garde - the Melnikov and Golosov clubs. Craftsmen like Alexander Lyubimov could work in them. It is characteristic that, apparently, Alexander Lyubimov has never been to Italy and has not seen the Rotunda with his own eyes. In this he is similar to a dozen famous and unknown architects who decorated hundreds of estates throughout Russia with houses in the Palladian style (a portico with columns and a triangular pediment) during the Golden, Pushkin Age of Russian culture.
The second aspect: Russian Palladianism is Atlantis, the culture of drowned empires. What happened to the estates of the Golden Age? Most are plundered, burned, destroyed. The grand style of Soviet totalitarian neoclassicism has also sunk into the past. So the plot of Palladio for Russia is also an architectural melancholy.
This tension between the themes of creating the image of Russian culture and its destruction, consecrated in the name of the Vicentist genius of the 16th century Andrea di Pietro della Gondola (Palladio), determines the entire drama and exhibition, and the magnificent catalog to it (artist Ira Tarkhanova).
Ippolitov is right: for the Russian architecture of modern times, the legacy of Palladio is really something sacred, the basis of the foundations of thought about architecture since the sovereign Emperor Peter Alekseevich.
The exhibition presents four historical versions of the translation into Russian of the famous palladium "Four Books on Architecture". The first was made just during the Great Embassy of Peter to the Western powers. It dates back to 1699 and belongs to the young Prince Dolgoruky (which one is unknown), an associate of Peter I in the Great Embassy. This is a compilation of various architectural treatises. Its meaning lies in the first systematic acquaintance of Russians with the correct (read: order) architecture. The second translation belongs to Peter Eropkin, an architect-intellectual, a victim of the intellectual opposition against the obscurantism of Anna Ioannovna and her favorite Biron. Shortly before his execution in 1740, Yeropkin translated Palladio, indicating the prospects for the existence of Russian architecture in the second half of the 18th century. The third translation presented belongs to Nikolai Lvov - a great autodidact, a brilliant amateur who opened up the possibility of establishing multimedia, as they would say today, connections between various types and genres of arts: music, versification, architecture, theater. His translation of one volume of "Four Books" was published in print for the first time in history. The fourth translation was created in the Silver Age (early XX century) of Russian culture by the neoclassical architect Ivan Zholtovsky. Then, after half a century of oblivion, Palladio was remembered in connection with the architecture of noble estates and their ghostly, Borisov-Musatov happiness. The translation came out in the hellish year 1937. And this also correlates with the dialectic of the fate of Palladian's legacy in Russia: totalitarian regimes in their own way dispose of the theme of "correct" architecture. For them, it is the architecture of order and total control, the unification of life. Therefore, Palladio was nice both for Arakcheev (military settlements), and for bureaucratic Nicholas Russia (for which Gogol disliked Palladianism in Russia, opposing him with the freedom of the Gothic style), and for cannibalistic Stalinism.
Palladio's translations are the foundation of the exhibition. In the beginning there was the Word … The structure of the building in which it is located is absolutely Palladian classic. Palladian is predictable. And convincing in Palladian. Chapters that follow each other, chronologically structured on the material of many monuments and documents, show how the theme of Palladianism was anticipated in Peter's pilaster architecture, what role Pyotr Yeropkin played in the spread of ideas of architectural (derived from civil) liberalism, how Palladianism itself reigned in Russia in connection with the invitation to the country in 1779 of Quarenghi and Cameron, how it lived in the Russian estate, what kind of propagandist Nikolai Alexandrovich Lvov was, how strange and unexpected it was revived in the Silver Age, underwent metamorphoses in the avant-garde, then in the style of totalitarian Art Deco, has sunk into stagnant oblivion, and flickers with a cherished light from the historical distance again today.
This epic, palace narrative, of course, has its own ceremonial pictorial plots. One of them is the Cameron Gallery. Invited by Catherine II, Charles Cameron noted with his construction a semblance of the center of the Universe of Russian Palladianism. First, his project for a gallery and baths in Tsarskoye Selo became the focus of Palladio's own ideas in his study of antiquity. After all, following Palladio, Cameron studied ancient buildings and in 1772 published the treatise "The Baths of the Romans". Secondly, Cameron taught Russian followers how architecture of the 16th century can be interpreted not in a copy, but in a modern way. After all, his own style is precisely the English version of Palladianism, saturated with the constructive and optical ideas of the Age of Enlightenment. That is, Cameron (like Quarenghi) proved that Palladio is always modern. Thirdly, from the Cameron Gallery as from the center of the Universe, which was arranged for herself by Mother Catherine in Tsarskoe Selo, a ray passes to the city of Sofia. The city of Sofia, projected behind the fence of Tsarskoye Selo, was supposed to be akin to the ideal cities of the Renaissance and to sanctify the idea of the highest Wisdom of the Greek project of Catherine, according to which Russia was proclaimed the heir of Orthodox Byzantium and Ancient Greece. And in the center of the nonexistent city of Sofia (the idea turned out to be utopian), to this day, thank God, stands the recently restored Ascension Cathedral. It was designed by Cameron, completed by Ivan Starov, and combines the iconography of St. Sophia of Constantinople and the Villa Rotonda. All these whimsical connections are beautifully traced in the excellent catalog of the exhibition, in the texts of Dmitry Shvidkovsky, Arkady Ippolitov. It is a pity that the complexity of the expositional drama does not make them understand.
It is also a pity that the visual series is little commented on by references in relation to the legacy of Palladio himself. It is pertinent to recall the example of the Palladian Museum in Palazzo Barbaran da Porto in Vicenza. There is a huge number of exhibits, video projections, clearly demonstrating what the smallest nuances of the plastics of Palladian architecture are in comparison, say, with the architecture of his follower Vincenzo Scamozzi. An entire wall of the museum is given, for example, to a stand with silhouettes of only the profiles of the cornices of Palladian architecture. In the case of Russian Palladianism, general cultural themes are preferable.
It is not easy to learn about the intricacies of the interpretation of the Palladian thesaurus itself in the Russian version, its differences from other versions. Especially for an unprepared person, for whom it is not enough to look at Quarenghi's drawing and immediately understand everything. The directory helps again. In a wonderful article by the second curator, Vasily Uspensky, dedicated to Nikolai Lvov, the specific features of the structure of the forms of the bizarre Palladian bell towers and churches of the Russian autodidact are analyzed in the most detailed way. A convincing conclusion is made about the importance of liberation from dogmas for Lviv, the formation of a personal version of the style. And very wittily this style is compared by Ouspensky with the era of sixteen-century Mannerism (in fact, her son, who lived from 1508 to 1580, was Palladio).
No longer manneristic, but rather phantasmagoric tricks of the Palladian theme, they propose projects of the 1920s - 1950s, from Alexander Gegello and Ivan Fomin to Andrei Burov and Mikhail Sinyavsky. There are many premieres in this Soviet section, even for the Russian audience.
We can only hope that the exhibition of historical significance will arrive in Russia. According to the organizers, in Moscow it is planned to be located at two sites: in the Tsaritsyno Museum and in the Museum of Architecture.