An Inspirational Milieu

St. Petersburg Cosmopolitan Collections of Old Masters

In: Experiment
Fabio Franz Ph.D. candidate in History of Art, University of Warwick UK

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This paper focuses on the provenance, conservation history, and critical fortuna of some selected Western European paintings that were placed in Saint Petersburg between 1850 and 1917. In my research, I link archival information with scientific bibliography and material data for three purposes: Firstly, I compare the two stays in Russia, in 1861 and 1862, by the German expert Gustav Friedrich Waagen with the 1865 visit to St. Petersburg of the Italian connoisseur Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Secondly, I investigate Cavalcaselle’s alleged meeting with the Russian expert Fedor Antonovich Bruni regarding the technique, fruition, and state of conservation of the paintings Saint Sebastian Barbarigo by Titian, Apollo and Marsyas Litta by Bronzino, and Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John, now attributed to Pontormo. Thirdly, I explore to what extend Duke of Leuchtenberg’s art gallery, Nikolai Dmitrievich Bykov’s collection, and some other private collections, among them those of Princess Kotchubey, Counts Buturlin and Stroganov, and Armenian general Lazarev, were accessible to Western scholars. The research results will enable art historians, curators, and restorers to fill in some blanks in the provenance research and conservation history of these Western masterpieces that used to enrich the Saint Petersburg art scene before the October Revolution.

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