A little trip into Russian history – Kuskovo (part 4)

Ok, now to the grand and dazzling king of Kuskovo – the Palace.

palace

It was built in the second half of the 18th century in the new neoclassical style by the Moscow architect Karl Blank ( he was said to be one of the last practitioners of Baroque architecture and the first Moscow architect to build neoclassical buildings). It was built purely for the entertainment of Sheremetevs’ guests in the summer. Not to live in, you understand. Convenient!

At the main entrance you can see two big ramps so that carriages with as many as eight horses could come directly to the front door.

entrance topalace

You can just imagine when the carriage arrived, servants would rush out the front doors and hold the horses while the guests descended.

Right in the middle of the portico you can see a monogram «PS» (Pyotr Sheremetev) under the count’s crown:

kuskovo palaca porch

Under the high porch there were wineries and utility rooms – very good space management 🙂

Inside the palace on the western end of the building, were twelve large state rooms  and, as it was fashionable in those days, all the rooms are situated as an enfilade, with doorways in line with each other. All the rooms downstairs are frightfully grand, the walls are covered with wooden planks and painted to look like marble – and you can’t really tell the difference!

All the rooms are filled with lots of paintings and several portraits of Russian Royals – our Pyotr used to entertain them there after all.

Exquisite and festive,The State Bedroom is another room that was decorated just to show off the owner’s taste and riches. Though it has a bed, it was never used as a bedroom.

Kuskovo, near Moscow. Russia

The Dancing Hall or hall of mirrors is absolutely unbelievable! It is the largest and most decorated room in the house. The ceiling is painted and the walls are covered with mirrors and decorated in white and gold. Imagine the balls that used to be held there, all the ladies and gentlemen dancing those formal ball dances, in white powdered wigs, in silk and velvet gowns covered with jewels… The word “imagine” was the one I said all the time in Kuskovo…

ball room

The Service of Sèvres porcelain given by Napoleon to Czar Alexander I in 1807,is  on display in the Dancing Hall.

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The  Dining Room is as opulent as the rest of them , all the paintings and decoration there stressed the long history and glory of the Sheremetev family.

dining room

On the table there is another example of a dining service which are pride and joy of Kuskovo.

800px-Kuskovo_Palace_Dining_RoomThere are so many other rooms in the Big House (as the Palace used to be called), all splendidly and very tastefully decorated, all covered with gold and marble, yet each one different and distinctive… I am lacking words here to pay tribute to the beauty of them all.

So I am leaving for now. See you next time!

===================================to be continued ==========================================

 

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A little trip into Russian history – Kuskovo (part 3)

Now let me introduce you to the earliest pavilion on the estate called The Dutch House.

goll dom

The lady inside was very kind and only too happy to talk about this gem of a house. She told me that it was the earliest of all the rest of “smaller” houses built for the entertainment on the estate and indeed The Dutch House was erected to commemorate Peter the Great’s epoch and his love for Holland.

This “architectural souvenir” was the first the visitors encountered when they  drove in Kuskovo through the drawbridge; and they were immediately drawn into a world of fantasy, “a mirage of the pastoral heaven”.  The pavilion was built in the “dutch “style, with its bright bricks which are actually painted on … the bricks! But, I suppose, it looks better…

It was surrounded by other small buildings (didn’t survive) and a little orchard with tulips and hyacinths but also with cabbages and  asparagus (still there). All this was supposed to recreate  a way of life of a ‘burgher’.

goll dom 2

It is now standing on a firm ground but it used to be right on the canal full of carps

gollandskiy_domik_gravura

and the host with his guests would arrive in a boat (accompanied by a cook), the fish was caught right on the spot and the chef cooked it in the kitchen downstairs while ladies and gentlemen waited upstairs!

When I went inside I was amazed to see that ALL walls were covered with handmade dutch tiles! Different colours in different rooms. The lady told me that at the time the tiles were so valuables that even prosperous households could afford only several of them and they were the pride of the house hanging framed on the wall. Can you imagine the sheer wealth of a person who could decorate all the walls from floor to ceilings with these precious tiles!

dutch house

Dining room in the Dutch House

The Dutch House is amazingly well preserved, the rooms layout, most of the furniture, paintings (mostly Dutch Baroque), china – all is authentic, original! This just blew me away! Imagine walking on the same floorboards, going up the same staircase, looking at paintings and decoration exactly like all those people did almost 300 years ago!

The house is quite draughty and cold in winter, the lady complained. They are obviously not allowed in the rooms and have to sit in a small corridor near a little heater… But she absolutely loved the Dutch House and everything in it and was evidently very proud of it. And I can understand why!

My latest set of three handmade cushion covers “Three Black Cats”

After some idle time I made not one but three cushion covers. They comprise a set:

cats2I thought it would be nice to have them on your sofa, chair or bed all together.

I love black cats and these are proud and independent but love each other’s company.

cats7 cats6 cats5

I used a “raw edge” applique technique using good quality felt and a tiny bit of embroidery 🙂

You can have a look at it and others here

A little trip into Russian history – Kuskovo (part 2)

Ok, we are now in Russia of 18th century. Pyotr  Sheremetev, the richest and ambitious man, decided that he needed a decent place to entertain his noble guests. He knew just the place – why, Kuskovo, of course.

Have a note: not to live in but to just have parties  and receptions. The family never actually lived in Kuskovo and no guests stayed overnight. There is no bedrooms in any of the buildings (well, strictly speaking, there is a “State bedroom” in the Palace, but it was never used as a bedroom, but rather as a formal reception room, to impress the guests with the owner’s taste).

So, Pyotr wanted a place where he could entertain his guests, show off his wealth and good taste and place his vast collections of art. Not that he was short of money – or land, for that matter. In its best time Kuskovo spread out on 230 (!)  hectares of land and was a venue for up to 30 000 (!!!) guests

old kuskovo

I saw this engraving of the Kuskovo estate in its hey day in “Italian House”

The earliest building in Kuskovo is the baroque Church but the Bell Tower is the latest… Interesting…

church

The Church and the Bell Tower

The whole complex took about 20 years to create. It included the Palace itself, many smaller “pavilions” used for fun and art, green houses, menagerie, hunting lodge,  huge park and a lots of ponds and canals. Pyotr was lucky that he had very talented architects among his serfs, so all the planning cost him nothing 🙂 A small fleet of rowing boats could be seen in the pond. Alas, no more…

pond2

Main pond in Kuskovo

They built the first In Moscow French-style park in Kuskovo – Russians were always fond of everything French – with complicated hydraulic engineering including ponds, canals and bridges. Sheremetev put lots of marble sculptures in the park, like this:

DSCF5901

I am afraid his mascara got a bit runny :0

Ok, how do you entertain so many people? There is lots of ways:

– church serices

– folk festivals (poor serfs! they were kept busy)

– boat trips accompanied by a choir singing (ditto)

– fireworks

– parades

– theater and opera performances (all the actors and singers were serfs)

– games and funfair

– promenades in “French” and “English” parks

– balls

–  dinners

All of these were employed by our man and for all these there were special buildings – about them later!

pond

————————————-to be continued —————————————

A little trip into Russian history – Kuskovo (part 1)

Hello, everybody! I haven’t been here, in my blog, for a while. I went to my native Russia for five weeks and didn’t have the opportunity to write any posts… Now I am back and I’d like to share with you a wonderful experience I had in Moscow.

There is a place in the Eastern part of Moscow called Kuskovo and – I am ashamed to admit it – although I heard about it, of course I did! – I visited it for the first time last month. What an encounter it was! I spent almost the whole day there and couldn’t get enough of it.

Kuskovo is an 18th century huge estate which used to be well outside Moscow boundaries but now, of course, is swallowed by the city. The first thing that amazed me was the share beauty of it. They knew how to do things like that in the old times!

799px-Kuskovo-2004-1

Isn’t it amazing?

Another marvelous thing about Kuskovo was the sense of authenticity – it was the REAL piece, all the parks and gardens and buildings had that  feeling of a wonderful old country place where History lives and shines…

But before I talk about the estate itself, let me tell you about it’s creator and owner, Pyotr  Sheremetev. Imagine a Russian nobleman and courtier, the richest man in Russia aside from the tsar who had numerous palaces in both capitals (Moscow and St Petersburgh) as well country estates all over Russia. Well, that was our guy.

sheremetev

When his father Boris died in 1719, he was only 6 years old and  tsar Peter the Great promised to be “like a father” to Boris’s children, and young Pyotr was brought up at court as a companion to the heir to the throne, who became tsar Peter II.

He had a glittering career at the court and unlike other court favorites, who rose and fell with the change of sovereign, Sheremetev remained in office for six consecutive reigns. …  But he wasn’t a career man at heart and as soon as he could he left the royal service and threw himself to his passion – love of art and theater, using his vast wealth to support it. Well, he certainly could afford it, especially after he married Varvara Cherkasskaya who brought him an expensive dowry.

sheremeteva wife

So, he was extremely rich and loved art. What was the most natural thing to do? Correct! Enjoy yourself. And enjoyed himself he did. He ordered to build various palaces (like this one in StPetersburgh)

Sheremetev_Palace_01

and decorated them with the best paintings, sculptures, furniture and architectural features there was. He employed the best professional architects but also had at his disposal extremely talented artists  from his serfs… They did an excellent job!

hall in palace

He collected a vast library of political and philosophical books from Europe, created  famous serf orchestra and theatre and compiled the best in 18th century Russia portrait gallery (in Kuskovo, by the way). His servants constantly raided European countries trying to find various artifacts for his estates. Nice job, I wish I could have it.

He was quite assiduous but economical manager of his estates but when he wanted to “maintain the family honor” and entertain the Empress and the court, he gave gala-receptions in Kuskovo that impressed everybody. Like, if you invited 2,500 guests over, you have to splash out, right?

He had 6 children and died aged 75. That’s all about him and I will tell you about his gem of an estate tomorrow.

——————-to be continued ————————-