Gilardi's Empire masterpiece: the protection site of the Gagarin manor house ensemble approval

July 18

Experts have identified the architectural value of the historical manor house of Prince Gagarin on Povarskaya Street. The Department of Cultural Heritage of Moscow has approved the site of protection for this landmark building. That entails the main building of the estate, the manege and a forged-welded fence with spear-shaped ends and two gates (address: Povarskaya Street, house 23, building 4, house 25a, building 1). The complex belongs to the Empire architectural style; it was built in the first third of the 19th century for Prince Sergei Sergeyevich Gagarin. For a long time, the construction of the house was attributed to the architect Osip Bove, but in 1975, when carrying out the first scientific restoration of the manor house, the authorship of Domenico Gilardi was established. Sculptors Gavriil Zamaraev, Ivan Vitali, Santin Campioni took part in the decoration of the mansion.

The manor house has the status of a cultural heritage site of federal significance. Any restoration work should be carried out there only under the supervision of the Department of Cultural Heritage of Moscow and in accordance with the approved site of protection. All elements of the decor, interior decoration, as well as the layout of the building and the materials used in its construction and decoration are included in this document.

"Gagarin's manor house on Povarskaya Street is a fine example of a preserved historical ensemble of the 19th century. The main building, where the Institute of World Literature is now located, was built in the 1820s according to the project of the outstanding architect Domenico Gilardi. This building is a real ornament to the district. In addition, the historical manege and the fence have been preserved. They are also an integral part of the long-standing development of this place. The Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage approved the entire complex as a site of protection. The document includes all the unique details of the monuments," Alexey Yemelyanov, the Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage, commented.

Photo by Yulia Ivanko,

The main building of the Gagarin manor house has two floors, a basement and a mezzanine. It is a stone building with a rich stucco decoration on the central facade. The coating of the house walls at the level of the ground and first floors differs from each other. On the ground floor, a special rustic plaster was used, which imitates convex masonry. And the first floor was plastered smoothly. The window openings of the ground floor are decorated with white lion masks. This is the decor of the authorship of the sculptor Gavriil Zamaraev. Domenico Gilardi has repeatedly used the above said sculptor works in his projects. In particular, Gilardi first tried out similar masks when decorating the facade of the Moscow University building on Mokhovaya Street.

The side facades of the house are not decorated. The semicircular projections of the courtyard facade are connected by a balcony with a metal lattice.

The layout of the house is original. The central place in the mansion is occupied by the grand staircase, and above it you can see a window in the ceiling, or the so-called roof lantern. A hall with low Doric columns leads to the stairs. The entrances to the piano nobile are surrounded by a staircase; they are made in the form of arches.

Only in the western part of the house there are several small living rooms, above which there is an attic storey with an elegant wooden staircase. Many rooms have vaulted ceilings and rich stucco decor. It is particularly worth noting that the ceiling vaults of the grand bedroom are painted in the grisaille technique, transmitting different gradations of the same color. The study has a bay window separated by columns (a three-dimensional window protruding forward from the plane of the facade) and a marble carved fireplace. Currently, the building houses the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Gorky Memorial-apartment. 

The manege of the Gagarin manor house is a two-story stone building with semicircular windows, rectangular and semi-arched niches, as well as white stucco decoration. In 1989, the manege building, which was damaged by a fire, was handed over to the Gorky Institute of World Literature.  In 1994, a large-scale restoration and reconstruction began in it. By its beginning, only the brick frame with a gable roof had been preserved from the historical structure. In 1995, the manege building returned its historical appearance. Now it houses a bank.

Prince Sergei Sergeyevich Gagarin (1795-1852) was the chief master of the court and head of the imperial theaters from 1829 to 1833. He put a lot of work to put the theater business in order: he introduced a performance fee instead of season tickets, transformed the theater school, and opened the Alexandrinsky Theater in 1831.

Photo by Yulia Ivanko,

After resigning from the post in 1833, the prince sold his Moscow manor house on account of debts repayment. The manor house often passed to different owners, until it was bought out by the management of the Moscow Stud Farm. The manege outside was supplemented with wooden stables, which occupied most of the manor park. Exhibitions and sales of horses were held in the manege building. And in the main house there were apartments of employees. In one of them, in 1875, the manager of the imperial stud farms in Tula and Moscow, Major General Leonid Hartung, with his wife Maria, the eldest daughter of Alexander Pushkin, settled down.

After the revolution, the former manor house at various times housed the First Moscow machine-gun courses of the Red Army, the Institute of Red Professors, the equestrian base of the Council of People's Commissars and the International Lenin School. And in the 1930s, the manor house housed the Semyon Budyonny Cavalry School, whose classes (not being cadets) were attended by Vasily Stalin and the sons of Anastas Mikoyan.


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