Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year

On April 28, the Schusev State Museum of Architecture and the IN ARTIBUS Foundation will inaugurate a substantial exhibition “Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year” dedicated to the 280th anniversary of the great Russian architect.
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
  • Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year
    Enlightenment Gothic. Vasily Bazhenov — Anniversary Year

The exhibition will take place in two venues; 140 featured pieces including graphics, paintings, sculptures, works of decorative and applied arts as well as historic documents and video materials will be divided into seven thematic sections. Alongside the creations by Vasily Bazhenov, visitors will find works by star architects and painters Matvey Kazakov, Giacomo Quarenghi, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn and others.

The curator of the exhibition Sergey Khachaturov commented on the choice of the topic, “The legacy of the great architect Bazhenov is well-studied, but there is an enigmatic and mysterious period in his oeuvre, called “the Gothic taste” that has attracted scholars for a long time but has never become a subject of an in-depth research or a large exhibition. However, meanings and ideas behind the Russian Gothic can help better understand the dialogue between the Age of Enlightenment and our times. The aim of the project is to facilitate this dialogue.” 

At the Museum of Architecture, the exhibition will be hosted in six halls of the main enfilade and two rooms of the permanent exposition, where a model of the Big Kremlin Palace created by Bazhenov in 1770-s is presented. The exhibition starts with Propylaeum section that highlights the various interpretations of “the Gothic taste” in the Age of Enlightenment. Here, the interior of a Gothic cathedral painted by Emmanuel de Witte is followed by Rembrandt’s view of old Amsterdam, which in its turn echoes with the cityscape of ancient Russian cities. This section introduces motives of theatre – the topic that runs through the exhibition like a golden thread – by showing stage sets created by Vasily Bazhenov during his Paris studies, medieval knight tournaments are paraphrased as genteel carousels, and the Gothic melancholy is expressed in the cult of ruins on Piranesi etchings.

 “The Gothic taste” is further developed in the Residence section that presents the back side of the Kremlin utopia. The visitor will see “the Gothic taste” palaces designed by Vasily Bazhenov and Matvey Kazakov with Renaissance, Mannerist and Palladian architectural elements. The panoramic view of the Tsaritsyno residence created by Bazhenov in 1776 is the centrepiece of this section. Among exhibits are the unique sketches by representatives of the Moscow architecture school of the Classicism period, illustrating how specific motifs in the Ancient Russian architecture of the Kremlin were interpreted into newer civil buildings (many on view for the first time) and measurements diagrams of Tsaritsyno, made with filigree precision by Soviet architects in 1950-s.

The final section entitled Temple demonstrates unique evidence of a search for the ideal church in the Age of Enlightenment.  

The Russian Gothic section at the IN ARTIBUS Foundation will take shape of a square with the Kremlin cathedrals and the Ivan the Great Bell tower – taken from the model of Bazhenov’s Big Kremlin Palace – in the centre. The exhibits around will be assembled to resemble a panorama. Since the notion of “gothic” was flexible, artists were guided by theatrical canon in painting tsars, princes and heroes of Ancient Russia.   

The exposition in the IN ARTIBUS Foundation focuses on the theatrical culture, scenic rhetoric, metaphors and symbols. At the entrance, one can see two portraits: of Vasily Bazhenov surrounded by his family (1780-s) and Catherine the Great during her coronation in the Kremlin Assumption Cathedral on September 22, 1762. Both compositions are in line with theatrical panegyric tradition and create a dialogue between two characters in a “Gothic taste” performance.  Bazhenov, pointing at his architectural plans, faces Catherine the Great. She is portrayed taking the monarchical crown in the Assumption Cathedral, the heart of the “Gothic Russia”. Torelli interpreted the ceremony and the architecture of the Cathedral under the influence of the 18th-century theatre aesthetics. These portraits introduce two sections: Empress and Architect. 

Theatrical symbols also shape the final section Tournament. Etchings and sculptures of the 18th century and the early 19th century revive the image of imperial festivals and horse carousels popular in the epoch of Catherine the Great. Inspired by medieval knights tournaments, in the Age of Enlightenment carousels became a mirror, in which the society strived to see its ceremonial reflection.

Anna Korndorf, the curator of the exhibition, said, “This exhibition is not only the first publication of numerous interesting materials from the Museum of Architecture collection, but also a special expositional ambiance allowing visitors to see the history through the eyes of an enlightened men of the 18th century and discern the “Gothic taste” in the most unexpected phenomena of the Russian and European culture.” 

The exhibition includes works from the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, the IN ARTIBUS Foundation, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, the Museum-Reserve Tsaritsyno, the Museum Dmitrovsky Kremlin, the Russian State Library and private collections.     

Exhibition’s catalogue is available in Russian and English. Within the exhibition, a wide educational program will provide visitors with a round table, lectures, guided tours, movie screenings and more. For further details please visit muar.ru.  

Days of the exhibition: April 28 –July 30 

Media preview:
26 April, 2 pm, the Schusev State Museum of Architecture  
26 April, 4 pm, cocktail, the IN ARTIBUS Foundation 

Transfer will be provided from the Schusev State Museum of Architecture to the IN ARTIBUS Foundation.

Curators: Tatiana Dudina, Zoya Zolotnitskaya, Anna Korndorf and Sergey Khachaturov  

Media accreditation and additional information:

The Schusev State Museum of Architecture (5/25, Vozdvizhenka street,) +7-926-117-36-03, et@eleven-pr.com

The IN ARTIBUS Foundation (17 Prechistenskaya naberezhnaya, Moscow)
+7-495-640-02-49, +7-926-727-17-85, pr@inartibus.org

in artibus foundation