Street like an exhibition. Looking for twin houses and sphinxes in Rozhdestvensky Boulevard

December 30, 2021

Rozhdestvensky Boulevard is familiar to anyone who is interested in Russian pictorial art of the 19th century. It was here that Vasily Perov painted his famous painting “Troika” (1866). Heroes of the canvas — three children — are pulling a barrel of water, and a dog is running merrily next to them. Their path takes them by the walls of the oldest convent in Moscow — Bogoroditse-Rozhdestvensky, which gave the name to the boulevard. It was founded in 1386 by Princess Maria Konstantinovna, mother of Prince Vladimir the Brave, in honor of the victory day of Russian troops in the Battle of Kulikovo.

At that time, walls of the White City occupied the location of the future Rozhdestvensky Boulevard. The wall was dismantled in the 18th century to landscape the boulevard. By the way, even in the first half of the next century, the atmosphere there was nearly rural. This is evidenced in one of writer Mikhail Zagoskin’s essays of the 1840s: "Here are hens with chickens, turkeys, geese going down the street, and sometimes you will happen to see a fat pig with its piglets."

The Fonvizin Brothers' House

12/8, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, building 1

One of the oldest mansions that survived to the present day was built here in the 18th century. At that time it belonged to Princess Anastasia Golitsyna. Then, Alexander Fonvizin, brother of the famous writer, took possession of the house. Two of his sons, Ivan and Mikhail, were Decembrists, and meetings of the Union of Prosperity were held in the manor house. Here, in 1821, it was decided to dissolve this secret society.

In 1869, Baroness Nadezhda von Meck, widow of a railroad magnate, became the owner of the house. A great lover of music, she was one of the first to notice the talent of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. She provided the composer with financial support to give him a chance to be exclusively engaged in creative activity. They were corresponding for about 13 years, but never communicated in person. Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest were once staying in the house while the hostess was away.

Under the baroness, the main house of the manor was joined with outbuildings, the facade was decorated in the spirit of eclecticism. An additional building was erected on the side of Maly Kiselny Lane. Vladimir Gilyarovsky mentions that there were two lion sculptures in front of the entrance to the house — it is impossible to see them now, the lions were lost in Soviet times. Nikolai Nekrasov in his ballad “The Secret” mentions "an old house decorated with coats of arms." Today, a portico with four pilasters remains on the facade, and a balustrade crowns the roof.

The House of writer N.F. Pavlov

14, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, building 1

There is a Rococo private residence next to the Fonvizins' mansion. Its narrow facade is decorated with four pilasters, stucco molding in the form of garlands, wreaths and shells. There are two through arches on the sides. On the attic, there is a high relief in the form of putti (cupid boys), and above them one can see the monogram of a house owner. The letter M indicates the surname of French merchant Emil Mattern — under him the mansion was rebuilt in 1870.

Before Mattern, the building belonged to Professor of chemistry and physics Karl Janisch. His daughter Karolina spoke eight languages, translated verses of Russian poets and wrote her own. Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz was in love with her, but Caroline's father married her to novelist Nikolai Pavlov. Supported by his wife, Pavlov organized a literary salon in the house. Moscow at large knew about the Pavlovsky evenings — Nikolai Gogol, Afanasy Fet, Alexander Herzen, Pyotr Chaadaev and many others attended them. By the way, it was here in 1840 that Mikhail Lermontov said goodbye to Moscow writers before leaving for exile to the Caucasus.

A.P. Karamysheva manor house (the house where Demyan Bedny lived)

16, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, building 2

The Pavlov's house is closely adjoined by a building which history is also connected with literature, but of the 20th century: Soviet poet Demyan Bedny lived here from 1933 to 1943. It was the most difficult time in his life: in 1930, the poet successful in the 1920s, was severely criticized, and in 1938 he was expelled from the party.

Initially, the manor building included the main house and two outbuildings. In 1851, Joseph Tsenkler, a merchant and commercial director of the State Bank of the Russian Empire, took over the manor house. His family occupied the main house, and the other two were rented out.

The manor house was rebuilt several times. In 1864, the outbuildings were connected to the main house by passages at the first floor level. The next reconstruction of the building took place in 1883 under supervision of architect Boris Freudenberg. He decorated the house with elements of the architecture of Italian Renaissance fortresses. The facade cornice rests on an arcaded frieze — a wall decoration in the form of a series of small decorative arches. This architectural element resembles fortress machicolation — loopholes designed to fire at enemies storming the walls. The roof of the central house is crowned by a balustrade, and on the facade sides at the level of the first floor there are black balconies, combined in style with the whole building.

M.A. Lagofit manor house

13, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, buildings 1 and 2

There are two twin buildings on the other side of the boulevard, almost opposite the Fonvizins' house. Two-story classical style buildings are connected by gates. Both houses are an example of a standard housing after the fire of 1812. A sample of a building with a four-column portico was included in a special album. In it, the customer could choose the facade he liked — it was cheaper than hiring an architect. To decorate the house, one could buy copies of antique bas-reliefs.

Initially, the buildings were wooden. Major’s wife Pelageya Lagofit and her descendants lived in the manor for some time. The last owner before the October Revolution was Nikolai Gulshin. In Soviet times, the building housed communal apartments. In 1982, the dilapidated houses were demolished and brick replicas were built in their place.

R.B. Bebutova’s tenement building

9, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard

The building was constructed in 1908-1909 according to the project of Gustav Gelrich — the master of Moscow Art Nouveau . The house is considered to be one of the best creations of the architect.

Two delicate shades are combined on the facade: the lower part of the house is light pink, and the upper part is lined with beige tiles. The central bay window is crowned with stucco figures of two young men holding wreaths of glory. The side bay windows are decorated with sphinx-shaped high reliefs. In addition, one can see women's mascarons on the facade. The wavy cornice with garlands and floral ornaments and balconies in the Art Nouveau style are noteworthy too.

The house belonged to Princess Rosa Bebutova, wife of State Councilor Vladimir Bebutov. In the 1910s, the mystic philosopher George Gurdzhiyev lived here and held meetings. For some time, there was a workshop of his cousin, sculptor Sergei Merkurov. In 1915, the Office of the Shulman Editorial Body of Fashion Magazines and Patterns was located here. Until 1917, part of the building was occupied by the Consulate General of France in Moscow.


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