My last installment of my wonderful recollection of Kuskovo – the most beautiful country estate of counts Sheremetev…
What else did I see there?
Out of many architectural complexes of 18th century Kuskovo only the Italian Pond on is almost fully preserved. t includes the Grotto, Italian house, the Menageries, all assembled around a small pond.
The Grotto was constructed by the serf architect F. Argounov as a ” palace of the King of the Seas”, it is built so cleverly that its facade and dome are reflected in the pond. Beautiful!
The niches were filled with statues of Roman gods and goddesses – Venus, Jupiter, etc.
The windows were covered with iron grills forged by serf artisans look like strands of seaweed.
The interior space, under dome, is meant to be the throne room of Neptune, crusted with seashells . The grotto is one of the few 18th-century grottoes still preserving its original decoration.
The Italian house is not very big, but very elegant inside and outside. Count Pyotr used to keep his art collection there and occasionally used it for “small receptions”. It is all wooden, filled with beautiful furniture and artifacts, splendidly decorated and has that spirit of total authenticity and loveliness I value so much when I look at historic places…
When we were strolling along the alleys in the French park we had a glimpse of a strange construction:
It was a huge “birds cage” – a reconstruction of Sheremetev’s aviary and guess what? – there are still five peacocks there! Not the original ones, I think 🙂
The French Park is quite formal as was the custom of that time, full of flower beds, marble statues, carefully trimmed hedges and alleys which met at either right or diagonal angles. There are 8 of them (alleys I mean) and they meet in a single point, where the circular Hermitage pavilion stands. Interesting fact: count Sheremetev spent most of his time in the Hermitage, coming to the Palace only for formal occasions.
It looks very peaceful… I suppose even the aristocrats used to get tired of vanity and bustle and needed some place to rest and mediate…
There were several green houses for growing fruit (the estate was quite self-sufficient!) but also a huge – the largest of all the pavilions – the Orangerie. it was used not as a greenhouse, of course, but rather as a large banquet hall for guests. In the 1960s, it was turned into an exhibit hall for the collections of porcelain – the most precious collection of Western porcelain in Eastern Europe, which had been collected by several generations of the Sheremetev family. I didn’t go there, left it for next time.
In the glass covered galleries filled with exotic plants there used to be a small round hall for dancing with a balcony for the orchestra… There is the exhibition there now I expect.
I looked at some other buildings and I left some for the next time (because I am definitely coming back!) and some of the buildings, sadly, didn’t survive. My favorite lady in the Dutch house told me that after the death of Pyotr Sheremetev his son Nikolai Inherited the estate but gradually Kuskovo ceased to be used as a main reception and entertainment residence. Sadly, its days of sparkle, brilliance, importance and pride were essentially over.
Never-the-less it stayed in the family for almost 300 years. I asked, how come it wasn’t destroyed after the revolution when so many palaces, grand houses and estates were burned, broken and annihilated. Well, apparently, the last count was a clever man; he gave Kuskovo to the new government as a gift to the nation and by doing it saved it from destruction.
Amazingly it didn’t suffer during the war, no bomb fell on any of the buildings and none of them were burnt…
Only Time managed to wipe away some of its glory…
But what is left was carefully and lovingly restored in the 90-s and it is a source of infinite joy for the people like me!