/ / Sculpture of the XVIII to early XX centuries

Collections of the Russian museum

Sculpture of the XVIII to early XX centuries

The State Russian Museum possesses the largest collection of sculpture of the period from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries in Russia. It began to take shape in 1897-1898 thanks to the re-location of the most famous works of national masters from the Hermitage and the Academy of Arts, and also from acquisitions from private owners. However, prior to 1917 this collection numbered only 184 exhibits. Today the museum holds more than 2,000 works of sculpture of this period.


Among the large monographic collections gathered in the Russian Museum the first mention should be given to the vast gallery of portraits created by Fedot Shubin (1740-1805), including the marble statue “Catherine the Lawmaker” (1789), made by order of Prince G.A. Potemkin for the newly constructed Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg. Its theme, close to the famous painting by D.G. Levitsky “Portrait of Catherine II the Legislatress in the Temple of the Goddess of Justice” (1783), reflected the ideals of the Enlightenment era.

They are also visible in the statue by Mikhail Kozlovsky (1753-1802) “Yakov Dolgoruky” (1797), dedicated to the historical episode from the time of Peter I, when Senator Dolgorukov dared to rip up a royal decree which was burdensome for people. This work, according to the traditions of classicism, includes many allegories: the Christian Light of Truth in the hero’s hand, the scales of justice and attributes (a mask and a writhing serpent) symbolising “righteousness, which tramples deceit and malice.”

Among the eighteenth century masterpieces is the marble statue by Feodosy Shchedrin (1751-1825) “Diana” (1789), which, along with Shchedrin’s “Venus” (1792), also exhibited in the museum, is one of the first images of a naked female body in the Russian sculpture.

Belonging to the early nineteenth century is the virtuoso terracotta sculpture by Ivan Prokofiev (1758-1828) “The Volkhov river and the Neva” (1801), made for Count Alexander Stroganov, philanthropist and art collector, president of the Imperial Academy of Arts, who at that time was directing the refurbishment of the sculptural decoration of the Grand Cascade of Peterhof.

Exceptional skill in the working of marble characterises such famous masterpieces of the Russian Museum as “Faun and Bacchante” (1837) by Boris Orlovsky (1797-1837) and “Venus, taking off her sandal” (1852) by Ivan Vitali (1794-1855). A harmonious blend of classic and romantic tendencies marks the best works of the Pushkin era portrait artist Samuel Galberga (1787-1839).

In the history of Russian sculpture of the second half of the nineteenth century, with its general realistic trend and variety of genres characteristic of the time, it’s worth mentioning the work of Fyodor Kamensky (1836-1913), Eugene Lanceray (1848-1886) and Mark Antokolsky (1842-1902), which are fully represented in the museum collection. At the same period the portrait genre acquired particular importance and many masters worked in it, in particular, Vladimir Beklemishev (1861-1919), depicting many of his contemporaries in busts and statues. Among his masterpieces in the museum collection is a marble portrait of the architect P.Y. Suzor (early 1890s.).

In the 1900s Anna Golubkina (1864-1927), Sergei Konenkov (1874-1971) and Alexander Matveyev (1878-1960) began their creative path to become the outstanding sculptors of the twentieth century. The best works of those years, fully reflecting the importance and originality of their talents, innovation and artistic vision, found place in the collection of the Russian Museum.

It should be emphasized that along with interior sculpture the museum collection at various times was replenished with unique large-scale monumental works. For example, in 1898 the Academy of Fine Arts donated to the museum the bronze group “Anna Ioannovna with an Arab Boy,” created by the Italian sculptor Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1667-1744), who had arrived in Russia in the time of Peter I. Dating back to 1741 and executed as a monument for a square, this sculptural composition was the last significant accomplishment by the master.

In 1925 a large plaster model of the monument to Emperor Alexander I, erected in 1831 in Taganrog was transferred from the Academy of Fine Arts. This uniquely designed sculpture was used in 1998 during the restoration of the monument which was destroyed at the end of the 1920s.

In 1939 the equestrian statue of Emperor Alexander III, created by Paolo Trubetskoy (1866-1938) for the monument which was erected in 1909 on Znamenskaya Square in St. Petersburg, was taken for the museum safekeeping. This was tantamount to the salvation of this famous masterpiece, which now stands in the courtyard of the Marble Palace, a branch of the Russian Museum.

Ivan Prokofiev. Volkhov and Neva

Ivan Prokofiev. Volkhov and Neva.

1801. Terracotta.

Sergey Konenkov. The Thinker

Sergey Konenkov. The Thinker.

1898. Marble.

Ivan Prokofiev. Volkhov and Neva

Ivan Prokofiev.

Volkhov and Neva


Sergey Konenkov. The Thinker

Sergey Konenkov.

The Thinker


Alexander Matveyev. Youth

Alexander Matveyev.



Boris Orlovsky. Faun and Bacchante

Boris Orlovsky.

Faun and Bacchante


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