A fine and scarce 19th century Russian topographical painting of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow probably painted around 1880. The painting is executed in oil on artist’s board, and depicts the Cathedral as seen from its north side looking south over the Moscow River to the city on the south bank. The painting is apparently unsigned. The gold leafed frame is contemporary.
Height: 23.5”/61.5cm., Width: 16.25”/41.3cm.
Framed: 30.0”/76.3cm., Width: 22.25”/52.2cm.
Condition is excellent antique, and the painting was lightly cleaned around twenty years ago. The frame was most likely added at the time of cleaning.
The present cathedral dates from 1554, when Ivan the Terrible ordered its construction on the site of a previous church to commemorate his campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. HIs placement of the new cathedral outside of the Kremlin was a deliberate political statement in favor of the common people, and against the hereditary aristocracy, the boyars. The identity of the architect remains unknown, and the cathedral architecturally has no known counterpart. No preceding, contemporary, or later building in Russia is like it.
This view from the north is quite unusual, as most views include the great walls of the Kremlin which, in this picture, are just out of sight and to the right. The classically styled glassed covered entrance added during the reign of Alexander I can be seen, and the onion domes still retain their early 19th century pastel colors. Throughout the 1880’s restoration and replacement of the roof tiles revealed the vivid original colors, and the domes were then repainted in the combination of deep red and deep green which can be seen today.
19th century topographical paintings of Moscow, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral in particular are quite rare.