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The Literature Museum of Pushkinsky Dom – the first and the largest national literature museum of all-encompassing quality – is one of the three whales on which the source study of the research and publication activity of the Institute and, naturally, not only of the Institute, rests. The Museum preserves more than 200,000 items of fine arts, documentary, historical and of everyday nature referring to Russian literature of the XVIII - XX centuries.
Alongside Pushkin’s library, which had put foundation of Pushkinsky Dom and practically simultaneously with its acquisition, there began to be formed general collections reflecting the multifaceted literature everyday life of the epoch, that is museum exhibits per se. Among the first acquisitions was the portrait of Anna Petrovna Kern, donated to Pushkinsky Dom by her grand-daughter A.A.Kuluzhinskaya, and two portraits of N.I.Gnedich, famous for his Russian translation of Homer’s «Iliad», that were presented by P.P.Gnedich. There followed a veritable flow of acquisitions and presents: separate items and whole collections, pictures and sculptures, books and manuscripts… A.P.Kern’s footstool on which Pushkin used to sit – from her granddaughter A.A.Kaluzhinskaya, a number of relics – from A.A.Bakhrushin and A.F.Koni, papers – from the Literature Fund, materials from the Board of Directors of the Imperial Theatres, from Brokgaus & Efron Publishing House.
From the early years of Pushkinsky Dom existence as a literature museum its creators encountered the total impossibility to separate literature from the everyday life forming its context. That forced them to expand within certain necessary limits the literature-historic collections not only with the writers’ portraits and illustrations to their works, but also with different material items that belonged to them and could serve as their characterization, and also, if it appeared possible, with the furniture surrounding the everyday literature life and work of certain epochs. This consideration led to allotting within the museum collection of Pushkinsky Dom a special department of relics, and to a certain extent, of the items of everyday life (cf.: «Pushkinsky Dom pri Rossijskoi Akademii Nauk». Leningrad, 1925, p. 109).
The flow of manuscripts and various memorabilia was growing wider. The museum got into its possession family relics of the Vrevsky, Pletnev, Arapov, Vyazemsky, Raevsky, Longinov families. Numerous valuable materials were donated by the Trust of Tolstoy Museum, by the Department of Language and Philology of the Academy of Sciences. While the exhibition of 1899 planted in the society a seed of the idea to create Pushkinsky Dom, the first major Pushkinsky Dom exhibition, that was unveiled in 1913 in the main building of the Academy of Sciences, certified to the successful implementation of this idea. However, World War I influenced the life of Pushkinsky Dom – its halls were taken over by the war hospital.
After 1917 Puskinsky Dom received the status of an academic research institution and so began to develop rapidly through the mediation of the State Museum Fund. Its collection was enriched with various materials from different private collections. In general it was after 1917 that our Institute started to acquire not only separate relics but whole collections. It became possible because the state, in spite of its meager financial funds, allocated considerable sums for new purchases. Among the major acquisitions of the period one should first of all mention the collections of the Pushkin Museum at Alexandrovsky Lyceum and of the Lermontov Museum at Nikolaevsky Cavalry School, where everybody knows, these two great poets spent their student years.
The museum collection was considerably enlarged at the expense of the memorial heritage of A.F.Koni, a well-known lawyer and public figure, of baron N.N.Vrangel, a distinguished art critic, of the poet Y.P.Polonsky, of Count S.S.Abamalek-Lazarev, of the Great Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. The range of the museum activity was growing ever wider that was reflected in organization of literature exhibitions, devoted to individual figures - I.S.Turgenev, N.A.Nekrasov, F.M.Dostoevsky - all timed to the jubilee anniversaries of these writers.
Rare materials were so abundant that it allowed to allot special historical-cultural museum subjects within general exhibitions, like, for example, watercolor portrait of Pushkin’s time; Russian portrait of the XIX century; the world of Russian album drawing (Pushkinsky Dom has a wonderful selection of Russian albums); paintings and graphics of Russian writers; Moscow and Petersburg iconography; landscapes and genre scenes of Petersburg’s everyday life in prints and lithographs; Russian estates of the XVIII - XIX centuries and its inhabitants; the history of Russian photography; Russian literature circles and salons of XIX – early XX centuries, and others.
The museum store-rooms make it possible to put on display temporary exhibitions that are sometimes quite special, like those devoted to the Great Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (the poet K.R.) or to the theme «Pushkin and Russian Orthodoxy».
Permanent exhibitions are more on a monographic side. For example, Turgenev «theme» is presented on the basis of Pushkinsky Dom collections of A.F.Onegin, of the famous collector of antiquities P.Y.Dashkov, of a literary man F.A.Vitberg, and of a historian of literature and bibliographer S.A.Vengerov. Turgenev iconography is also very rich, it includes works by A.A.Kharlamov, V.A.Bobrov, N.D.Dmitriev-Orenburgsky and such sculptors as A.N.Belyaev, M.M. Antokolsky, and Z.A.Polonskaya. The museum also has in its possession numerous photos of the writer. The museum collection of photo materials pertaining to literature in general is literally enormous. The same can be said about the collection of works of fine arts, executed by writers themselves, many of whom were excellent graphic artists and painters. The views of Turgenev places in sketches and watercolors painted by the poet Yakov Polonsky say much not only about Turgenev but also about Polonsky himself. Turgenev-the writer is supplemented with Turgenev-the painter, with his self-illustrations «Kasiyan from Krasivaya Mecha», «Small-Holder Ovsyannikov», «Hamlet of Schigrovsky Uezd».
Dostoevsky-the graphic also adds to Dostoevsky-the writer.
Pushkinsky Dom exhibitions in some way compensate to the fact that many great Russian writers do not have their personal museums in St. Petersburg. Thus, part of the furniture from the flat of Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov on Mokhovaya Street was moved to Puskinsky Dom, including the desk, items of everyday life, exotic souvenirs brought from the world expedition on the frigate «Pallada».
The Lev Tolstoy museum collection is of special importance. In fact it forms, like Pushkin or Lermontov collections, a separate museum in itself. The Tolstoy fund began to be formed during the writer’s lifetime. In 1909 in Petersburg there was a jubilee exhibition on the occasion of his 80 birthday that served as a foundation for the Tolstoy museum, which was practically started in 1911. M.A.Stakhovich donated two L.N.Tolstoy portraits painted by I.E. Repin, sculptor I.Y.Gintsburg – all his sculptural representations of Tolstoy. In this museum fund there are canvases by N.N.Ge, N.P.Bogdanov-Belsky, L.O.Pasternak, and sculptures by P.P.Trubetskoi. Exclusive collections of photographs and documents were donated by V.G.Chertkov, Tolstoy’s friend and publisher, and by S.A.Tolstaya, the writer’s widow.
As a result the Tolstoy fund has accumulated materials of rare artistic value. The writer’s son S.L.Tolstoy considered, for example, that Lev Tolstoy’s portrait by N.N.Ge was the best and the most accurate, because Lev Nikolaevich had not posed for it specially – he had been so absorbed in his work that he simply had forgotten about the painter’s presence. V.V.Stasov, on his part, considered Repin’s canvas «Lev Tolstoy in the arched room in Yasnaya Polyana» as one of the best, but not so much for its physiognomic likeness, as for «ideological» reasons, that is because it made visible the great artist’s sublime soul.
The collection of Tolstoy’s private things is also quite vivid – here we can see, for example, next to a cup with saucer … boots hand-made by Tolstoy himself.
The museum is proud of its Lermontov collection, the most extensive in this country. It was received, as already mentioned, from the Lermontov Museum that had existed since 1883 at the Nikolaevskaya Cavalry School. Lermontov, who from his childhood was fond of drawing and later took professional lessons on painting, left a vast graphic and pictorial heritage – portraits, canvases and sketches, battle scenes and landscapes. To a large extent these oils, as well as drawings, offer parallels to his poetry and also reflect facts and events of his biography – primarily episodes of his Caucasian period. These are «The Caucasian View with a Saklya» and «Reminiscences of the Caucasus», and «The Caucasian View with Camels». The collection of Lermontov’s self-portraits is also quite unique. Besides, the museum possesses practically all the portraits of the poet made during his lifetime: from his representation as a child (made by an unknown artist) and including portraits painted by A.I.Klyunder, K.A.Gorbunov, and R.Shvede. Among the portraits created by Lermontov himself, one should especially mention the portrait of Duke Lerma, whom the family legend considered the poet’s ancestor. In his features as reproduced by Lermontov one can see obvious likeness to the poet himself. Lermontov pictorial collection is accompanied with reflections of Lermontov’s poetry in the works of such artists as V.A.Serov, M.A.Vrubel, B.M.Kustodiev, V.D.Zamirailo (represented, as practically all Pushkinsky Dom exhibits, in originals). Numerous personal things that belonged to Lermontov help to reconstruct the whole image of his short, but impetuous and romantic life: dagger, sabre, the Caucasian belt, first officer epaulettes… and a pencil, found in his pocket after the fatal duel.
Materials from the museum are exhibited now not only on permanent and temporary exhibitions at Pushkinsky Dom, but also add to the exhibitions held in different other cultural centers of this country. Pushkinsky Dom had a hand in creating the Dostoevsky Museums – both in Petersburg and in Semypalatinsk, the Garshin Museum in Bulgaria, and the Gleb Uspensky Museum in Chudov, among others. Some of Petersburg’s literature museums are, in fact, branch institutions to Pushkinsky Dom: for example, Alexander Blok Museum, the exhibits of which – furniture, drawings and other items - had been temporarily transferred there from Pushkinsky Dom. Practically all of the Pushkin museums in this country were created by Pushkinsky Dom and till certain time constituted its part, only later they were expanded and emancipated. To give one example: in 1925 the poet’s apartment on 12 Moika was given to Pushkinsky Dom, and in a year a tradition was founded, still alive today: at 2.45 p.m. – the hour of Pushkin’s death - they play Chopin’s «Funeral March» and Mozart’s «Requiem». The hour of memory and grief… When in 1934 Mikhailovskoe, Trigorskoe and the Svyatogorije were turned over to Pushkinsky Dom, it was our institute that drew major outlines of the future reserve work. By the way, the famous Nekrasov Museum on Liteiny Avenue was created by Pushkinsky Dom too. Our exhibits also served the foundation of the All-Russian A.S.Pushkin Museum.