Cupids, birds and mandolins: 19th-century mansion being restored on Sadovoye Koltso

March 26

During the restoration of the main building of the 19th-century former city estate on Sadovoye Koltso, experts discovered interior elements that had been hidden for a long time, including touchstone marble that was used to finish the walls, and decorative parquet — a floor covering made of wooden slats forming an intricate pattern. Also, specialists found two house stoves lined with smooth white tiles.

All these historical details have been discovered by the restorers when dismantling more recent partitions and floor coverings, as well as sheeting made of drywall, plastic panels and other supplies.

Some highlights of the mansion on Sadovoye Koltso

The two-story mansion with a basement and an entresol is located at 56/3 Zemlyanoi Val Street. The restoration started this January.

Designed by an unknown architect, this classicist mansion was erected in 1843–1845. The lower part was made of stone, with the upper wooden part, and the façades covered with plaster. Gerasim Khludov – a philanthropist, an industrialist and a representative of a merchant dynasty – owned the estate for a long time.

'This building stands out for its lavish plaster moulding decorating both the façades and the interiors. However, the building acquired this bright unusual look almost half a century after the construction, in 1892–1893, with the owner Filipp Panteleyev, a peasant from the Vladimir province. Panteleyev launched a big renovation of the mansion, designed by architect Duvanov. Remarkably, Filipp Panteleyev owned a sculpture workshop in the main building. By the way, all the plaster mouldings were made at that workshop,' said Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department.

The front façade of the building has an avant-corps (ledge) with square half-columns decorated with floral ornament. The avant-corps is crowned by a small triangular pediment with a cartouche, a decorative element shaped as an unrolled scroll of paper. Semicircular architraves of the three central windows on the second floor have sculptures of putti (cherubs), and an open-winged eagle. Besides, there are a lot of women's and lion masks or mascarons — decorative relief elements shaped as a human or animal head — on the façade.

Panteleyev arranged three flats in the building, with those on the ground floor and the entresol for rent, while he himself occupied the second floor.

What is touchstone marble and where it was made

During the restoration activity on the second floor, it turned out that the walls originally had touchstone marble finishing. This is decorative plaster with a marble-like texture. It is made of gypsum, binders and dry colouring pigments. Artificial marble called scagliola was first made in Italy in the 17th century. In Russia, this finishing material was used to decorate interiors of palaces and luxury houses as early as Peter the Great’s reign and was called touchstone marble. Touchstone is a bar-shaped stone with an abrasive surface, which was used for grinding, sharpening and straightening tools. Touchstone was also used to treat plastered walls.

In the 19th century, scagliola marble was commonly used for decorating rooms in manorial estates. Artificial marble was almost identical to natural one, but it was cheaper, reduced heat loss, and was much lighter than its natural counterpart. Thanks to these properties, it could be used for finishing walls in wooden houses.

'It was discovered perfectly preserved in the drawing rooms of the second floor occupied by the owner's chambers. The walls were usually covered with monochrome decorative plaster from floor to ceiling. This touchstone marble is multicoloured, with prevailing light beige colour of the walls, which have kind of yellow, green and blue frames. The wall base is painted purple. In fact, this is a very elaborate, complex and painstaking job. Moreover, decorative columns made of touchstone marble were discovered in one of the rooms on the second floor. Specialists suggest that the marble was made in Filipp Panteleyev's sculpture workshop along with other decorative elements,' Alexei Yemelyanov added.

The second floor of the mansion boasts another discovery — decorative oak parquet the restorers found when dismantling the linoleum and laminate. There were two house stoves under layers of latter-day finishing on the first floor.

All these interior elements are well-preserved. Now, specialists are to clean them of dirt and dust, restore the lost details of the touchstone marble, parquet and stove tiles according to extant samples.

They are also renovating luxurious plaster mouldings in the rooms. The wide ceiling cornices of the first floor have floral ornaments. Rooms on the second floor have both ceiling cornices decorated with plaster mouldings, and a big area of the ceiling, too. The bas-reliefs feature various flowers and plants, birds, and cupids. One of the rooms, apparently a music room, has musical instruments — pipes, violins and mandolins — in the ceiling décor.

Restoration stages

Specialists are currently peeling off most recent layers of paint from plaster mouldings. Their lost elements will be restored after extant samples and according to archival photos and documents.

Also, restorers have been renovating plaster mouldings on the façades. They are to restore the grand staircase and recreate original windows and doors according to archival documents. The roof and the basement will be renovated, too. The final stage will be the improvement and landscaping of the surrounding grounds.

According to Alexei Yemelyanov, the former residential building of the 19th century in Zemlyanoi Val Street is a discovered cultural heritage site, so its historical appearance cannot be modified. All restoration works are supervised by the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department and conducted according to the project agreed by the Department. It involves both restoration of the mansion's façades and interiors, and its adapting to modern use.

The Department Head added that it is the first restoration of the building. After the October Revolution, it housed the Moscow provincial engineer’s office and various institutions later. For some time, the mansion housed a hotel. Its household outbuildings of the 19th — early 20th centuries have not survived. The restoration will finish in 2021.

Restoration of historical buildings is a priority of the urban environment improvement. Many cultural heritage sites have been revived and adapted for modern use, while preserving the appearance of Moscow. Since 2011, over 1,400 cultural heritage sites have been restored in Moscow, with 213 of them completed in 2019. In particular, specialists renovated the Grotto pavilion in Kuskovo Estate, the towers of Donskoi Monastery, the monument to Yuri Dolgoruky on Tverskaya Square, and other architectural heritage sites.

This year, the restoration of the old building with an entresol, located at the corner of Yelokhovsky Proyezd and Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street, has been completed. Both the building façades and the interiors have been renovated, with decorative elements restored, the log structure reinforced, the white-stone belt recreated and the wooden staircase renovated. 


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