Russian, Saint Petersburg
Red pine (pinus sylvestris), with wrought-iron clips
Wrightsman Fund, 1996 (1996.7)
No 2: The Old Castle (II vechio castello) and No 4: Bydlo (A Polish Ox-cart) from
Pictures from an Exhibition by Musorgsky played by Nikolai Demidenko
courtesy of Hyperion Records Ltd, London (www.hyperion-records.co.uk)
- I have a very deep affection towards this bust of a man
- who looks at you with a quiet, focused gaze, and kind of smile
- which radiates an ironic feeling.
- When the Metropolitan was lucky enough to get it in
- 1996 it was really a challenge
- to find out who the sitter is.
- It’s a great mystery:
- who he is, who made it.
- The wig and the armor are a clue.
- The wig is very typically for the late seventeenth century.
- And if we look closer at the armory,
- it tells us a whole story
- in details.
- The armory shows you Alexander the Great. And names came up.
- A colleague pointed me to a portrait of Alexander Menshikov,
- picked by Peter the Great to be the general field marshal
- of all the Russians, in 1703.
- He was very well known
- for his ostentatious behavior.
- When Catherine I took over
- he virtually ran the country. After the death
- of Catherine he was sent to Siberia
- The aristocracy tried to eliminate
- his memory. There are only less than a dozen portraits.
- We know from descriptions that Alexander Menshikov had a very high forehead, very gazing,
- strong eyes,
- and especially these thin lips. The whole pictorial program
- is so thought through.
- It must have been a collaboration
- of the patron
- together with the artist
- to create a monument
- that would last. The artist was able to
- capture in wood, the personality
- of the sitter.
- Even if we can’t name the artist,
- this is the beginning. Now we have all the time in
- the world to find out the rest.