The history of the collection (part 1)
The collection of Italian paintings is one of the most important sections of the Museum’s art gallery: it has more than five hundred and fifty works and chronologically covers the entire period of development of one of the leading European schools of painting. Of these, the permanent exhibition presents no more than two hundred, and those that are stored in the vaults of the Museum, remain little known, both to the General public and specialists.
Italian painting has a special place in the history of the Pushkin state Museum of fine arts (GMII), because it began with the formation of his art gallery. The founder of the Museum Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, who conceived the idea to create a Museum of casts of works of classical sculpture at Moscow University, even before its opening, came to the conclusion about the need to include originals in the exhibition, primarily paintings. The final turning point in his views occurred in the late 1900s, when the Museum was offered valuable collections of original works. Among them, consisting of unique monuments of Italian painting XIV-XV centuries collection of diplomat MS Shchekin, which marked the beginning of the collection of paintings (2). In 1924, the art gallery of the Museum acquired the status of an independent section.
The revolution of 1917 brought with it the idea of redistributing artistic values. In line with this policy, in 1924 it was decided to close the Rumyantsev Museum (full name – Moscow Public and Rumyantsev museums), and its rich collections dispersed to other collections: Russian paintings were transferred to the Tretyakov gallery, icons – in the Historical Museum. The successor of the Rumyantsev Museum can rightfully be considered the Museum of fine arts, which took most of its collections, including Western European painting. In the same 1924 to the paintings from the Rumyantsev Museum added revenues from the State Museum Fund, which were concentrated works from nationalized collections, from former private collections in Moscow and from country residences. In the autumn of that year, paintings began to arrive from the nationalized St. Petersburg collections of princes Yusupov, counts Stroganov and Shuvalov, as well as from the Hermitage. The receipts of 1924 formed the main nucleus of the picture gallery, and the Italian section contained over two hundred works; of the four halls of the gallery, opened in 1925, one was entirely devoted to the exhibition of Italian painting XIII-XVII centuries. From that moment began the systematic growth of the Museum’s art gallery, which since 1937, when the centenary of the death of the great Russian poet, became known As the Pushkin state Museum of fine arts.
The formation of the art gallery of the Museum falls mainly on the period of 1920-30-ies. Its creation was the merit of a number of people and first of all the Director of the Museum Nikolai Ilyich Romanov, a true enthusiast of the Museum business, a specialist in the art of Italy during the Renaissance. Until 1924, he worked at the Rumyantsev Museum, where he served as curator Of the Department of classical antiquities. It was he who drafted the reorganization of the Museum of fine arts, which provided for a change in its structure, and the creation of an art gallery as an independent section. Next to Romanov and under his leadership as curator of the art gallery in 1924 began his work Victor Nikitich Lazarev. He was invited by Romanov at a time when the cardinal reorganization of the Museum was carried out. Being a specialist in the field of Italian art, Lazarev did a lot for the formation of this section of the collection – he carried out a lot of work on the survey of the State Museum Fund and former private collections, repeatedly went to the Hermitage, where he conducted difficult negotiations on the transfer of a number of important paintings to Moscow (3).
The process of creating a collection of Italian paintings in the Museum proceeded ambiguously. Along with the expansion of the collection due to the newly received works, there was a serious outflow of paintings in connection with the transfer to Antiques and sale abroad. In addition, a large number of works were systematically allocated for transfer to provincial museums and even to the Hermitage. Transferred to Antiques works for the most part ended up in foreign, mostly American, museums and private collections. Not all paintings could be sold through foreign auctions, however, only in rare cases they returned to those Museum collections, where they were withdrawn in due time. Not a few works of Antiques and fell into private hands. An example of how, as a result of various vicissitudes of one of the masterpieces miraculously left the country, and was in the Museum, can serve as the history of the famous “Stroganov Madonna” Agnolo Bronzino. Like many outstanding works, it was intended for sale abroad, but for some unknown reason in 1932 from the Antiques picture came to the Museum. Traces of many other works are lost today. The figures of losses are impressive – for all the years of the Museum’s existence, more than 250 Italian paintings were transferred from its collection to Antiques and other institutions and museums, which is half of the collection of this school of painting belonging to the Museum today.
The beginning of collecting Italian painting in Russia dates back to the first half – the middle of the XVIII century, when interest in Italy comes to replace the more modest taste of Peter’s time with its focus on Holland (4). An example of one of the earliest private collections in Russia, formed before the founding of the Hermitage, is the collection of count Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov, in which a prominent place was occupied by paintings by Italian masters. A favorite of Elizabeth, the founder of the University in Moscow and the Academy of arts in St. Petersburg, he acquired paintings mainly to decorate his Palace. On the walls of his office, depicted by Fyodor Rokotov (5), were hung large canvases, mostly of the Italian school. A place of honor among them rightfully belonged to a series of four compositions performed by Alessandro magnasco in collaboration with Clemente Spera. One of them, “Bacchanalia”, is now in the Museum and presented in the exhibition. After the opening of the Academy of arts Shuvalov has transferred to the gift 101 the canvas, among which were four works of Alessandro magnasco.
“The brilliant age of Catherine” marked the beginning of the formation of the Hermitage, which became the personification of the splendor of the Imperial crown. Thanks to the acquisition of established and famous collections in different countries, it quickly turned into one of the richest art collections in Europe. In 1764, St. Petersburg received paintings from the Berlin merchant gotzkowsky, in 1769-from the collection of Bruehl in Dresden, in 1772 – from the collection of croze in Paris, in 1779-from the collection of Walpole in England. In all these collections, despite the differences in tastes and individual preferences of the owners, the painting of Italy occupied a prominent place. There met art different schools and trends-from XVI until the eighteenth century. Over time, some of these paintings moved to the GMII. From the gotzkowsky collection, with the acquisition of which begins with the history of the Hermitage collection (6), there is a “Battle of Zama” Roman master of the XVI century, from the collection of Bruhl – a painting by Bellotto of a series of views of Dresden and Pirna, from the Crozat collection is a small painting by Veronese of the Minerva, one time, was in Verona in the house Cortoni, as well as works by Lanfranco and Alessandro Turks, and of the Walpole collection – the works of Paris Bordone, Paolo Veronese, Pietro da Cortona, Cantarini, Vassallo. Among the paintings of the XVI century, which came to the Museum from the Hermitage, it should also be noted such first-class works as” Madonna with Child and angels “by Lorenzo Lotto and” Lady at the toilet ” by Giulio Romano, received in the Imperial collections in the late XVIII – first half of the XIX century.
In connection with the presented at the exhibition one can not forget about one of the tragic pages in the history of the Hermitage in 1854 on the orders of Nicholas I auction it sold 1219 paintings from the Imperial collections, including the aforementioned “the apparition of the sibyl to Emperor Augustus” Paris Bordone and the “Battle of Zama” Roman master of the XVI century, appeared then in the Moscow private collections (7).