The Russian Passion for Dutch Painting of the Golden Age

The Collection of Pyotr Semenov and the Art-Market in St Petersburg, 1860-1910


Author: Irina Sokolova
In The Russian Passion for Dutch Painting of the Golden Age, Irina Sokolova presents the collection of paintings created by Pyotr Petrovich Semenov-Tyan-Shansky (1827–1914), an outstanding scholar and Russian statesman during the era of liberal reforms in Russia. Not only did this man of great erudition assemble a unique body of more than 700 works by Dutch and Flemish masters, but he pushed hard to ensure that it entered the Imperial Hermitage in 1914. His activities as a collector have until recently remained largely unknown. For the first time in English, this richly illustrated book unfolds the history of Semenov’s gallery against the background of cultural and artistic life in St Petersburg and the close ties between Russian and European connoisseurs of his time.

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Irina Sokolova (Habilitation 2006, St Petersburg State University), is Curator of Dutch painting at the State Hermitage Museum. She has published exhibition catalogues and articles on Dutch seventeenth-century paintings in Russia, amongst the most recent 'Het portret van Samuel Maresius in de Collectie van de Hermitage' in Face Book (Primavera 2012). She is presently working on a catalogue of seventeenth-century Dutch masters in the Hermitage.
"Sokolova tells a riveting story very well and takes us into an unfamiliar and fascinating world. She has excellent notes, bibliography and indexes – the Index of People is especially valuable in giving short biographies. This is the first in a new series of books published by Brill, the Oud Holland Book series. It is beautifully produced and well illustrated, which bodes well for the success of the series."
Christopher Brown, Director Emeritus, The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
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" The Russian Passion for Dutch Painting of the Golden Age represents fifty years' worth of collecting by Russian explorer and scholar Pyotr Semenov (1827–1914). Little has been written in English about his collecting, so this monograph is a unique contribution to scholarship in the history of art."
Lindsey Reno, University of New Orleans

"While the title might suggest a seemingly narrow topic, this is belied by the wealth of information contained in this book: Semenov’s life, his collecting, the importance of Dutch works in Russia, key scholars of Dutch art from the era, Russian collectors and antiquarians, and the sale of his works. The text is intended for a broad audience from specialists in museums and collecting to academics interested in Dutch Baroque art, as well as to scholars of Russian art and culture."
Andrea Rusnock, Indiana University South Bend


List of Abbreviations ix
List of Figures xii
Map of St Petersburg xxiii

Introduction 1

1 Pyotr Semenov and His Age 15
2 Aspects of Artistic Life in St Petersburg during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Private Collections Open to the Public, Exhibitions and Auctions 35
3 St Petersburg’s Collectors and Antiquarians 1860–90 73
4 The Nineteenth Century. A New View of Dutch Painting and its Impact on Russia 101
5 Pyotr Semenov and Western Experts: Wilhelm Bode, Abraham Bredius and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot 109
6 The Semenov Gallery on Vasilyevsky Island: Its Composition and Character 153
7 The Sale of the Collection to the Imperial Hermitage 219
8 The Semenov Collection in the Hermitage: Fate Scatters the Paintings 255

Conclusion 273

Appendix 1 Paintings from the Collection of Pyotr Semenov still in the Hermitage 281
Appendix 2 Paintings from the Collection of Pyotr Semenov no longer in the Hermitage 314

Notes 355
Bibliography 393
Index of Artists 416
Index of People 432
All interested in the history of Dutch seventeenth-century painting and its trading in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century.