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The Restoration of Paintings at the Imperial Hermitage (Saint-Petersburg) at the Beginning of the 19th Century

Mariam Nikogosyan

Résumés

Le début du XIXe siècle fut une période charnière pour l’histoire de la formation des restaurateurs en Russie. F.K. Labensky, conservateur de la Galerie de l’Ermitage de 1797 à 1850, met en place un atelier de restauration avec un personnel permanent, travaillant sur la collection de la peinture impériale. Assistant de Labensky, restaurateur A.F. Mitrokhine, apprend toutes les techniques connues de restauration mécanique - doublage, parquetage et même transposition des peintures, - et les développe. Une école spéciale est créée près de l’atelier de l'Ermitage à 1819, supervisé par Mitrokhine, ou les jeunes diplômés de l'Académie impériale de l'Art se familiarise à la fois avec la restauration mécanique et picturale des peintures. Les apprentis de l'école de Mitrokhine transmettent ensuite ses techniques à la prochaine génération de restaurateurs de l’Ermitage.

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Introduction: the Imperial Hermitage Picture Gallery at the first half of the 19th century

  • 1  A main source on the history of painting restoration in Russia remains a research of A. B. Aleshin (...)
  • 2  On the history of the Imperial Hermitage Picture Gallery see Levinson-Lessing, V. F., Op.cit.

1  The beginning of the 19th Century was an important period in the history of restoration in Russia; virtually it can be considered the dawn of Russian professional painting restoration1. During that period, original techniques of structural restoration were worked out and put to practice; the first restoration studio with several people working together was established. Naturally enough, such enterprise could only start on the basis of a big art collection with sufficient funds and efficient management, such as the Imperial Hermitage Picture Gallery. The development of restoration studio went along with the gradual transformation of the Hermitage Picture Gallery from the private collection of Catherine II to a museum-like structure2. First attempts to institutionalize the collection and its transformation to a detached establishment had begun already in the brief reign of Catherine’s son Paul I. A new inventory of a collection was drawn up and listed nearly four thousands items. Alexander I continued to transform the Hermitage Gallery into a sort of museum with a limited public access, but it still was considered part of the Royal palace and its art collection were regarded as palace belongings. The Hermitage Picture Gallery was transformed into a true museum with public access by Emperor Nicholas I, who inaugurated it in 1852 in a specially built museum edifice, New Hermitage.

2Since 1799 and up to the mid 19th century the Hermitage Gallery was administered by a Court Office, subordinated to “Obergofmarshall” (fr. “Marechal de la Cour”; court positions in Russia had German titles). According to the Statute of 1805 the collection of Hermitage was divided into five Departments: paintings of the Gallery were ascribed to the Second Department, together with the cabinet of rarities, bronzes and marbles. (The First Department included the library, carved stones and numismatics, the Third – prints, the Fourth – drawings, the Fifth –cabinet of Natural history). The Second Department was headed by Custodian, subdued to the Obergofmarshall. The Court Office controlled all budget and administrative matters. Extensive correspondence of Court Office with subordinates on each point, preserved in the archives of the Hermitage, presents invaluable documentary sources, rich with restoration records. The real chief of the Hermitage Picture Gallery was Emperor himself, who showed particular concern for all matters and took a final decision.

F.Labensky and the restoration of paintings at the Imperial Hermitage Picture Gallery

  • 3  On F. Labensky see Thieme, U. et Becker, F., Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildender Künstler von der An (...)

3Decisive changes of policy concerning the restoration of paintings in Hermitage were due personally to Franz Labensky (Łabenski, Franciszek Xawery), who was nominated Custodian of the Hermitage Picture Gallery by the Emperor Paul I in 17973. At that time Labensky was only 28 years old painter, who had come to Russia two years earlier, accompanying an architect Vincenzo Brenna invited by Paul I, and helped him in decoration of the Gatchina Palace. In 1805 he became a Chief of the Second Department and held this position till 1849,nearly fifty years. It seems he was an educated person, though it is only known that he had studied painting three years with Marcello Bacciarelli (1731-1818) in Warsaw. A court painter of the Polish King Stanisław II August Poniatowski, Bacciarelli was also a Custodian of the King’s art collection. Labensky could have learned about the care of the pictures from Bacciarelli. In any case, the new Custodian was well aware of the importance of structural restoration for the maintenance of the paintings.

  • 4  On Pfandzelt see Malinovsky, K. V., “Materialy po istorii khraneniya i restavratsii zhivopisi v Ro (...)
  • 5 The State Hermitage Museum (further referred as SHM), Inv.GE 3673. Oil on copper (transferred from (...)
  • 6 Malinovsky, K.V., Op. cit.,1982, p. 372-373.
  • 7 Malinovsky, K.V., Op. cit.,2007, p. 340-341.
  • 8 SHM, Inv.34. Oil on canvas, 253,5 x 201 cm. The State Hermitage Archive (further referred as SHA), (...)
  • 9 Petrov, P. N. (ed.), Sbornik materialov dlya istorii Imperatorskoy S.-Peterburgskoy Akademii Hudoze (...)

4The first Custodian of the Hermitage Picture Gallery from 1749 till 1775 was Lukas Conrad Pfandzelt (1716-1788), a painter from Ulm. He was also the first professional restorer working in Russia4. According to German tradition he was qualified in both fields of restoration: mechanical and artistic. Being a skilled restorer he was the first one to introduce transfer techniques in Russia. In 1770 he transferred from wooden panel onto copper plate the painting of Lucas Сranach the Younger (1515-1586) Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, considered at that time a work of Albrecht Dürer5. The transfer was accompanied by publications in newspapers and exhibitions of the painting before and after treatment, and had a wide resonance. Pfandzdelt worked alone in his workshop, far from the Winter Palace, and had no pupils. After his death, there was no other expert support conservator in Russia, who was capable to transfer paintings.Pfandzelt’s successor and Labensky’s immediate predecessor, was a Venetian painter Giuseppe Antonio Martinelli (ca.1730-1796), who earlier had assisted Pfandzelt in the restoration of the paintings from the Count Brühl collection, bought in 17696. But apparently Martinelli could restore only painting surfaces, as he entrusted the treatment of supports to Johann Hauf (?-1810), who was considered at that time the best restorer of paintings in Saint-Petersburg7. In 1800 Hauf was asked, according to the order of Paul I, to “repair” a painting of Salvator Rosa “Prodigal Son” from the Hermitage Picture Gallery which was moved to the Academy of Arts, also managed by the Court Office8. Hauf demanded 300 rubles for the work, but it still remained unpaid in 18079.

  • 10  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10. This important report was partly cited in Stepan Artem (...)
  • 11  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 9, fol.29.
  • 12  A.B. Aleshin, opus cit., p.44. SHA, fond I, opis II, 1800, delo 7, 1803, delo 1, 1806, delo 5, 180 (...)
  • 13  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10, 10v. (Here and further the translations are mine – MN) (...)
  • 14  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1807, delo 13, 1809, delo 14, 1811, delo 15.
  • 15  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1813, delo 5, fol.3.
  • 16  The painting belongs to the Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts (inv.Ж-1197). An inscription on (...)

5According to Labensky’s own words, at the time of his appointment at the Imperial Hermitage, the job of mechanical restorer, so important and necessary, had been forgotten, therefore paintings suffered much, so when he entered his post, he found that a large number of the paintings had fallen into decay10. Soon after his nomination Custodian of the Gallery, Labensky invited a painter Pirolli to take up an artistic restoration of paintings (traditionally, this part was entrusted to Italians), and Pirolli held this position till 181711. Besides, on the demand of Labensky, two valets in charge of paintings repair were assigned to the Second Department – Alexey Andreev in 1800 and Andrey Mitrokhin in 1801, and later two assistants – Grigory Andreev in 1806 and Savely Luzin in 1807. At their disposition was also an employed joiner, Evgraf Lavrentev12. But they all had no real skill in “mechanical” restoration, and Labensky “was constrained” (according to his own words) to employ a certain Peronard, evidently a Frenchman, whose “skill was not perfect, so he was employed only because there was no one better and only in the case of strict necessity”13. Not much is known about Peronard, but it seems he was the only restorer in St. Petersburg at that time, which could transfer paintings onto a new support. The invoices preserved in the Hermitage archives give evidence that in 1807 Peronard was asked to transfer painting by Raphael Judith (now attributed to Giorgione), in 1809 he lined a big painting attributed to Le Sueur, and in 1811 he transferred The Holy Family by Giulio Romano14. In 1813, after the return of the Hermitage Gallery paintings from a “secret expedition” (i.e. evacuation), Peronard made 17 stretchers and pulled 42 paintings on stretchers15. He was still active in 1820, judging by his inscription on the reverse of a transferred painting16.

A.F.Mitrokhin and the development of structural restoration of paintings in Russia

  • 17  On Mitrokhin see Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit., p. 51-66 and Aleshin, A. B., Op. cit, p. 44-6 (...)
  • 18  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10v-11.

6Labensky was unsatisfied not only with the quality of the restoration, but also with the price requested by foreign restorers. He came up with an idea to raise a professional restorer at the Hermitage studio and he found an ideal adherent in a subordinate valet Andrey Filippovich Mitrokhin (1766-1845)17. Mitrokhin was born in a small town Toropetz and studied painting with a local painter. After having being a soldier, in 1792 he was taken into service at the Winter Palace as lacquey in charge of the painted works. His only known painting, the Portrait of Emperor Paul I (Saint-Petersburg, Museum of A.V.Suvorov) demonstrates that he had enough skill as a painter. Due to his knowledge of painting, in 1801 Mitrokhin was nominated “Kamerdiener” (fr. “valet du chambre”) and assigned to the Second Department for treatment of paintings. He showed himself so assiduous and zealous, that Labensky, according to his own words, was induced to give him advices, methods and infused him with a passion for the mechanical art and brought him to such a degree, that he could be useful not only for Hermitage, but for art and amateurs: “Mr. Mitrokhin has achieved my aim and, one can say, became one of the best in his craft, which is proved by numerous operations performed by him on the Hermitage paintings”18.

  • 19  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 21, fol.1, an abstract was cited in Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. (...)

7Inspired by Labensky and under his guidance, Mitrokhin began to experiment with restoration techniques. In 1817 he wrote in his report to Labensky (asking for lodgings by the Gallery): “I noticed that many paintings of famous artists on panel supports always suffer damages, which bring them to complete destruction. That important subject attracted my attention, and since 1808 I started to seek means to transfer painting from panel to canvas. I continued my exercises relentlessly till 1812, and at last achieved my aim”19.

  • 20  Published in Malinovsky, K.V., 1982, Op.cit, p. 376, note 23.

8In fact, in a rather short period of time, Mitrokhin took possession of all known techniques of mechanical restoration – relining, cradling and even transfer! - and moreover, according to him, he learned them experimentally. It seems, yet, that he was guided by European, mostly, French, examples. Apparently, it was Labensky, who helped Mitrokhin to become acquainted with all innovations concerning restoration in Europe. Labensky spoke and wrote French, he was interested in restoration, so naturally he would bring to Mitrokhin’s knowledge the detailed report on transfer of Raphael’s Foligno Madonna by François-Toussaint Hacquin in 1801. In fact, the technique of transfer, worked out by Mitrokhin demonstrates marked similarity with Hacquin’s technique, described in that report, though Mitrokhin developed it on his own. The main innovation brought by Mitrokhin was the use of isinglass as a glue mixed in certain proportion with honey as a softener. The isinglass was used for restoration already in 18th century by Georg-Christoph Groot and Pfandzelt as we learn from documentary sources20. So Mitrokhin could also have become acquainted with the methods of his predecessors in Russia.

  • 21  On Russian acquisitions from the Malmaison gallery see V.F. Levinson-Lessing, Op. cit.,p. 138-143  (...)
  • 22  Pougetoux, A., Op. cit.,p. 34-36, 41-42.
  • 23  For example, some paintings from Malmaison Gallery: David Teniers the Younger Monkeys in the kitch (...)

9Mitrokhin had a possibility to study foreign restoration techniques directly on the paintings brought to Russia from France, as he later treated some of them. In 1808 Labensky went to Paris where he bought, with the help of Vivant Denon, 23 paintings for the Hermitage Picture Gallery. Among them were such important pieces as the Lute-Player by Caravaggio and the Woman and a Maid with a Pail by Pieter de Hooch. The contacts of Vivant Denon with Russian Imperial Court continued after the Napoleonic wars. Denon proceeded to acquire paintings for the Hermitage Gallery as late as 1814. The same year Emperor Alexander I purchased in France 38 paintings from the collection of the late Empress Josephine in Malmaison. Other 30 pictures from Malmaison were bought by Emperor Nicholas I in 1829 from Hortensia de Beauharnais, Duchess de Saint-Leu21. Many pictures bought in France had previously undergone restoration treatment. It seems there were no transferred paintings among them, but some were relined and those on wooden panel could be cradled. It is known that Malmaison painting collection was treated by Guillaume-Jean Constantin (1755-1816) and by François-Toussaint Hacquin22. The relining was widely used in Russia in the 18th century, whereas no mention of the use of cradling at that time by Russian restorers is known to me. The very term for cradling in Russian “parketazh” is evidently adopted from French “parquetage”. Anyways, Mitrokhin put cradling into practice since 1820ies, after Malmaison collection entered the Hermitage. It seems he was not always successful in it, as thirty years later some paintings, cradled by him, were transferred to canvas23.

The transfer of the paintings performed by Mitrokhin

  • 24  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1816, delo 25, fol.3.
  • 25 Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit.,p. 60.
  • 26  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 19, fol.53-55.

10The first records of transfers performed by Mitrokhin at the Hermitage are dated as early as 1815. There is an invoice on the materials, used by him for the transfer from panel to canvas of five paintings: two by Garofalo, two by Dürer, one by Teniers and one by Parmigianino (now considered a copy)24. Mitrokhin asked 230 rubles for transfer of five paintings, which together made 23 square feet, at the rate of 10 rubles for foot (just as a reminder, Peronard was paid 500 rubles for the transfer of one picture). Later in 1823 Mitrokhin explained in a statement on a transfer of two paintings by Rubens Bacchus and Landscape that it would cost 2200 rubles: 50 rubles per foot, but as he received a fixed salary, he would ask only 10 rubles per foot for materials25. In 1825, Mitrokhin made a list of the materials necessary for the transfer and lining with prices, and a calculation was deduced: 10 rubles per foot for transfer, 2 rubles per foot for lining. Labensky decided that it was more convenient and economic to pay to restorers for materials, than to buy them26. That practice persisted in the Hermitage Picture Gallery until the beginning of the 20th century.

  • 27  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1815, delo 18, 1816, delo 6.
  • 28  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.7. Later the painting was considered a copy from an origi (...)
  • 29  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 34, fol.1

11Already in 1816 Mitrokhin was considered skilled enough to be authorized to transfer from panel to canvas a painting by Raphael The Holy Family, one of the most important acquisitions from the Malmaison Gallery. The painting suffered on its way to Russia: the wooden support had split27. Mitrokhin transferred it successfully onto canvas and Pirolli restored the painting surface28. In the same year Mitrokhin transferred from panel to canvas other paintings of Hermitage Gallery: a painting ascribed to Ribalta, another Parmigianino, Rape of Hanimed ascribed to Michelangelo and Saint Barbara by Andrea del Sarto (now attributed to Puligo). The payment for materials used on four paintings amounted to less than 500 rubles29.

  • 30  On Brioschi see Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon der bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, Münch (...)
  • 31  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, д.13, fol.1.

12The last two pictures were transferred on a special occasion. In 1817 Pirolli left his service due to old age. There were two candidates for the open vacancy, both Italian painters – Vincenzo Brioschi (1786?-1843), already a member of the Academy of Arts, and F.Bencini (?-1841)30. According to the Emperor’s order, a competition between the two was set up to judge their “talents and craft”31. Two deteriorated paintings were chosen, whose repair demanded a lot of skill, namely those above-mentioned paintings of Michelangelo and Andrea del Sarto. A record of the paintings’ degradation was compiled and signed by three academicians – Rector, sculptor I.P. Martos, and two professor painters G.I. Ugriumov and A.E. Egorov. The record was written in French and titled « Procès verbal constatant l’état de dégradation de deux tableaux tirés du dépôt de l’Hermitage... etc. ».That curious document gives evidence of the attitude of that time towards artistic and mechanical restoration:

« C’est sur ces deux morceaux d’épreuve que les sieurs Brioschi et Bencini concurrents présentés pour la place vacante de restaurateur de tableaux de l’Hermitage, doivent faire connaître leur talent. L’essai aura lieu dans les salles de l’Hermitage et les deux candidats ne pourrons communiquer ensemble jusqu’à la fin de leur travail, le sort décidera seul du choix des deux tableaux.

  • 32  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.3-4v.

NB. Les deux tableaux qui sont l’objet du présent procès verbal, étaient peints sur bois, et viennent d’être préalablement transportés sur toile avec le plus grand succès, par les soins du valet de chambre Mitrokin, attaché à la conservation des tableaux de l’Hermitage »32.

13The authors of the text mean by the word restorer - a painter, while a restorer in a modern sense of word, Mitrokhin, is called just a valet. The next paragraph which follows the detailed description of the pictures, explains great esteem for artistic restoration:

  • 33 Ibid. Some misreading of the handwriting is possible.

“Ces deux pièces exigent une patience, un soin et une habilité extrêmes, jointes à une, connaissance parfaite de la manière et du faire du maître, avec lesquels l’artiste doit, en quelque sorte s’identifier. Les parties importantes qu’il faut pour ainci dire recréer donneront une juste mesure du talent des candidats dans le dessin, autre partie non moins essentielle à celui qui se voue au travail ingrat de la Restauration”33.

  • 34  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.7. The painting”Saint Barbara, considered to be a work of (...)
  • 35  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.33.

14Both paintings were transferred from panel to canvas and consolidated by Mitrokhin. A painting ascribed to Michelangelo, was assigned to Brioschi, another one – to Bencini34. Two separate rooms were given to the two candidates and the Chief Valet (Kamerdiener) was ordered not to let anyone enter those rooms and to lock them up after the work35.

  • 36  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.37-38.

15That competition took place in August 1817. The mastery of both candidates was verified by three above-mentioned academicians, but no decision followed. Labensky repeatedly reported to the Court Office on the absence of painter restorer, noting his importance for the collection and costliness of the invited restorers. Only in April 1819 (two years after the competition) the Emperor deigned to command to take both painters into service paying them the same salary as Pirolli, who received 4500 rubles a year36. The salary of a mechanical restorer was still much smaller; the assistant restorer received just 300 rubles. But already in 1825 Mitrokhin would be named “restorer” and his salary would be raised, and later would become equal to that of painter-restorer. Gradually the importance of mechanical restoration grew in public opinion, till at the second half of the 19th century it prevailed over artistic restoration. The most renowned restorer in Russia at that time was Alexander Sidorov, a joiner without any artistic background.

Restoration school organized by Labensky by the Hermitage restoration studio

  • 37  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.11.

16In 1819 the restoration studio of the Hermitage comprised two painters-restores – Brioschi and Bencini, one mechanical restorer Mitrokhin and two assistant restorers – Andreev and Luzin. The duty of the assistant restorer included looking after the paintings, hanging the pictures and dusting them. Yet a single mechanical restorer could not perform all the interventions required. Labensky was also preoccupied with the idea that the mastery and knowledge acquired by Mitrokhin would be lost after his death. Later he wrote: “Having in mind that important and useful craft and wishing to preserve precious works of art and inimitable artists from devouring time, I have decided to extend mechanical restoration and to establish a special school on this subject supervised by Mr. Mitrokhin”37. During the above-mentioned competition Labensky seized the opportunity and talked about his idea of a restoration school directly with the Minister of Religious Affairs and Education, Prince Alexander Golitzyn. Golitzyn liked the project and made a report to the Emperor. Labensky’s initiative stirred great displeasure in his superior, Obergofmarshal Pashkoff, because Labensky should primarily have addressed to him on the subject, but luckily Emperor Alexander approved the project.

  • 38  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 4.
  • 39 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.1, p. 568, vol.2, fol.76, 118, 124.
  • 40  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 22, 26.
  • 41  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 4.

17On 9th March 1819 four graduates of the Imperial Academy of Arts were sent to the Hermitage to help Mitrokhin with the restoration and to study the art of transferring paintings from panel to canvas and from old canvas onto a new one. Their names were Evgraf Korotky, Alexander Smirnov, Fedor Rybin and Pavel Melnikov38. They had all graduated from the Academy with good results, and were awarded with silver medals39. In the Hermitage they were given a fixed salary 600 rubles and lodging, supplied with firewood and candles40. Labensky prescribed the following schedule: one week two of the apprentices would study mechanical restoration with Mitrokhin, the other two – artistic restoration with Brioschi and Bencini, and the following week vice versa. Mitrokhin was asked to supervise their behavior41. It should be noted that this was an innovative idea to educate a restorer skilled both in mechanical and artistic restoration, and to teach mechanical restoration to painters with academic training.

  • 42  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.2-4. All were paintings from the Hermitage Gallery, some (...)
  • 43  SHM, Inv. GE 479. 189 x 254,5 cm.

18A year later all apprentices could already transfer paintings from panel to canvas: there is an archival record that in 1820 Korotky transferred a painting by Rubens, Rybin – the Death of the Virgin by Le Sueur, Smirnov – a landscape by Ruysdael, Melnikov – a Head of a friar by Rubens. Even an assistant restorer Luzin transferred a painting from old canvas onto a new one42. An interesting detail: the reverse of the painting transferred by Melnikov bears the inscription, that the painting was transferred from panel to canvas by Mitrokhin whereas the inscription on reverse of the painting by Le Sueur states that it was transferred by Rybin (matching archival record). Maybe Melnikov transferred the painting with the help of Mitrokhin, and Rybin, who was considered the best student, worked independently by himself. The same year Mitrokhin transferred from panel to canvas a big painting Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee by Rubens43. In the following years mainly Mitrokhin’s transfers are recorded, from 1829 transfers performed by Rybin were also included. It seems he was the only one of the apprentices to master the transfer technique and to practice it steadily.

  • 44  For instance, when Labensky had ordered them to help Luzin to wipe a dust from paintings, the appr (...)
  • 45  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2.
  • 46  SHM, Inv.GE 2273. 49,5 x 33, Kustodieva, T. K., Op. cit.,p. 217. n.115.

19Initially the school had no strict regulations and soon conflicts began between the exigent Mitrokhin and ambitious apprentices44. Korotky was the first to leave the studio in 1821, after two years of apprenticeship. Labensky wrote later, that Korotky decided to leave thinking only about his own benefits, without asking himself whether he was capable to restore paintings from private collections, as he had not learned enough and became of no use for Hermitage45. Indeed, Korotky restored pictures from private collections, as later in 1824 he transferred (not very successfully) a famous Madonna Benois of Leonardo da Vinci, at that time in a private collection. Already at the beginning of 20th century this painting needed new treatment46.

  • 47 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.I, p. 568, vol.II, p.148, 161, 162, 203, 207.
  • 48  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.4-5.
  • 49 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.2, p. 132, 182, 196.

20A new apprentice replaced Korotky- Iakov Ianenko. He was three years younger, and had also graduated from the Academy with a silver medal. He stayed in the workshop only for one year and later made a career as an artist (he became an academician)47. At last even Rybin decided to resign. This time Mitrokhin suggested to Labensky to introduce school regulations. According to the newly written rules, approved by the Court office, the school apprentice was obliged to stay at school no less than six years. After that he could be appointed an assistant restorer with an increased salary, on condition of good work and behavior. After ten years of service, he could become a restorer48. Another graduate from Academy, Iakov Dushinsky took the place of Ianenko49.

  • 50  On I. Marshall see SHA, fond I, opis II, 1820, delo 3, 1822. delo 2, 1823, delo 16.
  • 51  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.1,6,15, 21.
  • 52  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 27, 1822, delo 9 fol.16,17.

21Now the Hermitage restoration studio comprised, beside three restorers Brioschi, Bencini, and Mitrokhin, two assistants and four apprentices, not to mention an employed joiner. The enlarged studio worked cohesively at least for ten years. During the ten years following the foundation of the school in 1819, fifty seven pictures were transferred from panel to canvas, thirteen - from old canvas onto a new one, twenty seven - relined, sixteen – cradled, five - pasted. In total 118 paintings from the Hermitage Picture Gallery had undergone interventions on support, not to mention the pictures from other palaces; total quantity would surpass 600 items. As for treatment of the painting surface, 50 paintings from the Hermitage Gallery were restored by Brioschi, 50 – by Bencini, 19 – by apprentices and 6 by foreigner I. Marshall, employed for a short period50; 125 paintings in total, apart from more than two hundred paintings from other palaces51. The restoration studio was placed in the Hermitage on the ground floor, facing the river Neva. Since 1822 it was given room in Hermitage Theatre, but Mitrokhin had his personal room for work52.

  • 53 Aleshin, A. B., op. cit., p. 60.
  • 54 Aleshin, A. B., op. cit., p. 61.
  • 55  On Tabuntsov see Petrov, P. N., op. cit., vol.2, p. 227, Aleshin, A. B., Op. cit.,p. 64-68. Tabunt (...)

22The restoration school organized by Labensky and supervised by Mitrokhin was the first restoration school in Europe. Its purpose was to extend and to save from oblivion those restoration techniques developed by Mitrokhin, to prepare qualified restorers of paintings for the Hermitage Gallery and to ensure the continuity of the studio staff. That limitation with the needs of the Hermitage Gallery inevitably brought the school to its end. The apprentices had practically no future since there were no free vacancies in the Hermitage. The difference in salary was significant: a restorer received 1314 silver rubles in a year, an assistant restorer - 428, apprentice – 34253. The best of apprentices, Rybin had been the first to be appointed an assistant restorer, but only after the death of Luzin in 1828, and he had to wait about twenty years, till Mitrokhin had become too old and sick to work, to be nominated Restorer in 1845. Tragically that the same year Rybin had an attack of mental disorder, was dismissed and committed suicide. Iakov Dushinsky remained an apprentice for twenty years (till 1839) and only after his notice of resignation was nominated assistant restorer. In 1845 he became painter-restorer, but he died the same year. Smirnov resigned for health reasons in 1831 and was succeeded by Fedor Tabuntsov (1810-1861)54. Tabuntsov, the last apprentice of Mitrokhin’s school, became mechanical restorer and the head of the Hermitage restoration studio at 1846, when all the previous restorers had died. He passed Mitrokhin’s techniques to the following generation of restorers55.

  • 56  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1843, delo 97.

23Mitrokhin made one more attempt to save his knowledge from oblivion: during his last years, feeling sick and not as efficient as before, he wrote a manual about restoration and the transfer of paintings, where he summed up and systemized the results of his long continuous experience. He gave his manual, called “The laws of restoration”, to Labensky, writing that with this work he aimed “to bring at least some small benefit, according to his weak forces, to the art, necessary for the preservation of the precious Picture Gallery of the Imperial Hermitage”56. The Mitrokhin’s manual was still in Hermitage archives till the middle of the past century, but then unfortunately, it was lost. Nevertheless, owing to his school, the techniques of restoration invented by Mitrokhin, practically survived till modern times and became the basis of Russian restoration of paintings.

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Bibliographie

Aleshin, A. B., Restavratsiya stankovoy maslyanoy zhivopisi v Rossii, Leningrad, Hudozhnik RSFSR, 1989 (in Russian: Алешин (Анатолий Борисович). Реставрация станковой масляной живописи в России. Ленинград, Художник, 1989).

Babin, A., “Le Voyage Pittoresque” from Malmaison to St. Petersburg, France in Russia: Empress Josephine's Malmaison Collection. Ed. by Franck Althaus. Fontanka, 2007, p. 25-39.

Levinson-Lessing, V. F., Istoriya kartinnoy galerei Ermitazha (1764-1917), Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1985, second edition, 1986 (in Russian: Левинсон-Лессинг (Владимир Францевич). История картинной галереи Эрмитажа  (1764-1917). Ленинград, 1985).

Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S. A., “André Mitrokhine restaurateur de tableaux à l’Ermitage Impérial“, Starye gody, April-June, 1916, 51-66 (in Russian: Гамалов-Чураев(Cтепан  Apтемьевич). «Ресторатор 9-го класса Андрей Митрохин», Старые годы, апрель-июнь, 1916, с.51-66).

Ermitazh. Sobranie zapadnoevropeyskoy zhivopisi. Katalog. Kustodieva (Tatyana Kirilovna), Italianskaya zhivopis XIII-XVI veka, Florence, Iskusstvo-Giunti, 1994, (in Russian: Эрмитаж. Собрание западноевропейской живописи. Каталог. Кустодиева (Татьяна Кирилловна), Итальянская живопись XIII-XVI века, Флоренция, Искусство-Джунти, 1994).

Ermitazh. Sobranie zapadnoevropeyskoy zhivopisi. Katalog. Nikulin (Nikolay Nikolaevich), Nemetskaya I avstriyskaya zhivopis XV-XVIII veka. Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1987 (in Russian: Эрмитаж. Собрание западноевропейской живописи. Каталог. Никулин (Николай Николаевич). Немецкая и австрийская живопись XV-XVIII века. Ленинград, Искусство, 1994).

Malinovsky, K. V., “Materialy po istorii hraneniya i restavratsii zhivopisi v Rossii v XVIII veke“, Sovetskoe iskusstvoznanie, I, 1982 (82/I), p.363-382. (in Russian: Малиновский (Константин Владимирович), «Материалы по истории хранения и реставрации живописи в России в XVIII веке», Советское искусствознание, 1982, I, с.363-382).

Malinovski (K.V.), Khudozestvennye svyazi Germanii i Sankt-Peterburga v XVIII veke, Saint-Petersburg, 2007. (in Russian: Малиновский (Константин Владимирович), Художественные связи Германии и Санкт-Петербурга в XVIII веке, Санкт-Петербург, 2007.

Marijnissen, R. H., Dégradation, Conservation et restauration de l’oeuvre d’art, 2 vol., Bruxelles, Editions Arcade, 1967.

Petrov, P. N. ed., Sbornik materialov dlya istorii Imperatorskoy S.-Peterburgskoy Akademii Hudozestv za 100 let eye suschestvovaniya, 3 vol., Saint-Petersburg, 1864-1866 (in Russian: Петров (Петр Николаевич) ред., «Сборник материалов для истории Императорской Академии Художеств за 100 лет ее существования», 3 т., Санкт-Петербург, 1864-1866).

Pougetoux, A., La collection de peintures de l’Imperatrice Josephine, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, collection Notes et documents des musées de France, 2003.

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Notes

1  A main source on the history of painting restoration in Russia remains a research of A. B. Aleshin, based on the archive material: Aleshin, A. B., Restavratsiya stankovoy maslyanoy zhivopisi v Rossii, Leningrad, Hudozhnik RSFSR, 1989. Important information can be also found in Levinson-Lessing, V. F. Istoriya kartinnoy galerei Ermitazha (1764-1917), Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1985 (second edition, 1986). Few other articles related to the theme will be mentioned further.

2  On the history of the Imperial Hermitage Picture Gallery see Levinson-Lessing, V. F., Op.cit.

3  On F. Labensky see Thieme, U. et Becker, F., Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildender Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Bd.22. Leipzig, Veb E.A. Seemann Verlag, 1928, p.164-165. The portrait of F. Labensky by Vogel von Vogelstein is reproduced in Russkiy Bibliofil (Le Bibliophile Russe. Revue illustrée des amateurs de livres et des gravures), Saint-Pétersbourg, n.4, 1912, p. 34-35.

4  On Pfandzelt see Malinovsky, K. V., “Materialy po istorii khraneniya i restavratsii zhivopisi v Rossii v XVIII veke Sovetskoe iskusstvoznanie, 1982, I, p.363-382 ; Malinovsky, K.V., Khudozhestvennye svyazi Germanii i Sankt-Peterburga v XVIII veke, Saint-Petersburg, Kriga, 2007, p. 299-320; Levinson-Lessing, V. F., Op. cit., p. 44-45, 114-115, p. 280 note 154.

5 The State Hermitage Museum (further referred as SHM), Inv.GE 3673. Oil on copper (transferred from wooden panel), 84 x 123 cm. See “Ermitazh. Sobranie zapadnoevropeyskoy zhivopisi. Katalog. Nikulin, N. N., Nemetskaya i avstriyskaya zhivopis XV-XVIII veka”, Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1987, p. 69, n.27.

6 Malinovsky, K.V., Op. cit.,1982, p. 372-373.

7 Malinovsky, K.V., Op. cit.,2007, p. 340-341.

8 SHM, Inv.34. Oil on canvas, 253,5 x 201 cm. The State Hermitage Archive (further referred as SHA), fond I, opis II, 1800, delo 5.

9 Petrov, P. N. (ed.), Sbornik materialov dlya istorii Imperatorskoy S.-Peterburgskoy Akademii Hudozestv za 100 let eye suschestvovaniya, Saint-Petersburg, 1864, vol.I, p. 592.

10  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10. This important report was partly cited in Stepan Artemievich Gamaloff-Tchouraïeff, “ André Mitrokhine restaurateur de tableaux à l’Ermitage Impérial “ Starye gody, April-June, 1916, p.51-66 (52-53) and in Levinson-Lessing, V. F., Op. cit.,p. 158-159.

11  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 9, fol.29.

12  A.B. Aleshin, opus cit., p.44. SHA, fond I, opis II, 1800, delo 7, 1803, delo 1, 1806, delo 5, 1807 delo 7.

13  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10, 10v. (Here and further the translations are mine – MN).

14  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1807, delo 13, 1809, delo 14, 1811, delo 15.

15  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1813, delo 5, fol.3.

16  The painting belongs to the Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts (inv.Ж-1197). An inscription on reverse was kindly shown to me by A.B. Aleshin during the restoration of the painting.

17  On Mitrokhin see Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit., p. 51-66 and Aleshin, A. B., Op. cit, p. 44-63.

18  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.10v-11.

19  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 21, fol.1, an abstract was cited in Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit, p. 55-56; and in Aleshin, A.B., Op.cit, p. 46-47.

20  Published in Malinovsky, K.V., 1982, Op.cit, p. 376, note 23.

21  On Russian acquisitions from the Malmaison gallery see V.F. Levinson-Lessing, Op. cit.,p. 138-143 ; Pougetoux, A., La collection de peintures de l’Impératrice Joséphine, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, collection Notes et documents des musées de France, 2003, p. 56-57, 60-61. Babin, A., “Le Voyage Pittoresque” from Malmaison to St. Petersburg, France in Russia: Empress Josephine's Malmaison Collection, ed. by Franck Althaus, London, Fontanka, 2007, p. 25-39.

22  Pougetoux, A., Op. cit.,p. 34-36, 41-42.

23  For example, some paintings from Malmaison Gallery: David Teniers the Younger Monkeys in the kitchen (Inv.GE 568), cradled by Mitrokhin in 1824 (SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.10), was transferred onto canvas by himself in 1842 (the inscription on reverse of the painting); Andrea del Sarto The Holy Family (Inv. GE 62), cradled by Mitrokhin in 1824 (SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.5, 12v) was transferred onto canvas by A. Sidorov in 1866 (the inscription on reverse of the painting); Perugino (now attributed to Vincenzo Catena) Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Peter (Inv.GE 11), cradled by Mitrokhin in 1829 (SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.4v, 13) was transferred onto canvas by Sivers in 1862 (the inscription on reverse of the painting).

24  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1816, delo 25, fol.3.

25 Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit.,p. 60.

26  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 19, fol.53-55.

27  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1815, delo 18, 1816, delo 6.

28  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.7. Later the painting was considered a copy from an original of Raphael Madonna del divino amore (Naples, Gallery of Capodimonte). Its present whereabouts are unknown.

29  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 34, fol.1

30  On Brioschi see Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon der bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, München-Leipzig, K.G.Saur, 1996. Bd.14, S.248-249. In 1816 Brioschi was paid 1110 rubles for restoration of the paintings from the Malmaison Gallery under the guidance of Pirolli (SHA, fond I, opis II, 1816, delo 43). Practically nothing is known of Bencini.

31  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, д.13, fol.1.

32  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.3-4v.

33 Ibid. Some misreading of the handwriting is possible.

34  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.7. The painting”Saint Barbara, considered to be a work of Andrea del Sarto, now is ascribed to Domenico Puligo” (Inv.1477, 91,7 x 69,8 cm. See “Ermitazh. Sobranie zapadnoevropeyskoy zhivopisi. Katalog. Kirilovna Kustodieva, T., Italianskaya zhivopis XIII-XVI veka”, Florence, Iskusstvo-Giunti, 1994, n.200, p.365-366). The second painting - “Rape of Hanimed” ascribed to Michelangelo, is not included in the above-mentioned catalogue, its whereabouts are unknown to me.  

35  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.33.

36  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1817, delo 13, fol.37-38.

37  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.11.

38  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 4.

39 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.1, p. 568, vol.2, fol.76, 118, 124.

40  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 22, 26.

41  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 4.

42  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.2-4. All were paintings from the Hermitage Gallery, some of their attributions and whereabouts are now changed.

43  SHM, Inv. GE 479. 189 x 254,5 cm.

44  For instance, when Labensky had ordered them to help Luzin to wipe a dust from paintings, the apprentices indignantly refused to obey. Labensky appealed to the Court office, but it took the side of apprentices, stating that they should study restoration and not dust the paintings. Gamaloff-Tchouraieff, S., Op. cit.,p. 59.

45  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2.

46  SHM, Inv.GE 2273. 49,5 x 33, Kustodieva, T. K., Op. cit.,p. 217. n.115.

47 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.I, p. 568, vol.II, p.148, 161, 162, 203, 207.

48  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1825, delo 2, fol.4-5.

49 Petrov, P.N., Op. cit.,vol.2, p. 132, 182, 196.

50  On I. Marshall see SHA, fond I, opis II, 1820, delo 3, 1822. delo 2, 1823, delo 16.

51  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1829, delo 68, fol.1,6,15, 21.

52  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1819, delo 27, 1822, delo 9 fol.16,17.

53 Aleshin, A. B., op. cit., p. 60.

54 Aleshin, A. B., op. cit., p. 61.

55  On Tabuntsov see Petrov, P. N., op. cit., vol.2, p. 227, Aleshin, A. B., Op. cit.,p. 64-68. Tabuntsov was the only one restorer before Sidorov, mentioned in European literature – cfr. Marijnissen, R. H., Degradation, Conservation et restauration de l’oeuvre d’art, Bruxelles, 1967, p. 47.

56  SHA, fond I, opis II, 1843, delo 97.

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Référence électronique

Mariam Nikogosyan, « The Restoration of Paintings at the Imperial Hermitage (Saint-Petersburg) at the Beginning of the 19th Century », CeROArt [En ligne],  | 2012, mis en ligne le 10 avril 2012, consulté le 26 avril 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/2344

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Mariam Nikogosyan

Mariam Nikogosyan holds a position of Research Associate at the Oil Paintings Department of the Grabar Art Conservation (www.grabar.ru) since 1979. She is involved in study and scientific examination, authentication and attribution of the paintings under restoration. Her special interest is Italian painting of the 14-18th centuries, technology and practice of Old Master paintings, history of restoration and the art collecting in Russia. She is a Member of I.C.O.M since 2001. She holds a MBA Degree in Art History from the Moscow State University.

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