Mikhail Lermontov’s houseRussian: Dom-muzey Lermontova or Дом-музей Лермонтова on Molchanovka StreetRussian: ulitsa Molchanovka or улица Молчановка is the only place in Moscow that “remembers” this outstanding Russian poet. He moved here with his grandmother, Elizaveta Arsenyeva, in August 1829 and spent about three years here. The mansion which had belonged to F. Chernova, a merchant’s wife, is typical of Moscow architecture in the aftermath of the 1812 French invasion of Russia; it is a one-storey building with a mezzanine, a courtyard and wooden outbuildings, including a kitchen, the servants’ izbaa traditional Russian countryside dwelling, a stable, a coach house, an ice cellar and a storehouse. It is in this building that Lermontov wrote more than half of his poems!
The Lermontov House Museum holds exhibitions dedicated to Lermontov’s days in Moscow. The museum opened its doors in 1981 as a result of the efforts of Irakliy Andronikov, a well-known literary historian. The building itself miraculously escaped destruction during the 1960s, when a giant thoroughfare, Kalininsky AvenueRussian: Kalininskiy prospekt or Калининский проспект (present-day Novy ArbatRussian: Novyi Arbat or Новый Арбат), was built across this old Moscow neighbourhood and many 18th and 19th-century historical buildings were irretrievably lost. Andronikov noticed this house just in time to save it from demolition.
THE MUSEUM’S TREASURES
One room was once ocсupied by Lermontov’s grandmother, Elizaveta Arsenyeva (1773-1845, born Stolypina). The ancient and noble Stolypin family had been known in Russia since the 16th century, and one of its illustrious descendants was the Russian statesman Pyotr Stolypinthe Prime Minister of Russia, and Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Empire from 1906 to 1911. A tragic fate befell Elizaveta Alekseevna: she lost her husband at a very young age, then her only daughter and, finally, her only grandson whom she described as follows: “He alone is the light of my life, he is all my bliss”.
A portrait of seven-year-old Micha, which his grandmother used to take everywhere with her, hangs on one of the walls. Lermontov’s appearance fascinated many of his contemporaries; he was stocky, relatively short and, to quote artist Moisey Melikov, “he had big hazel eyes, whose charm remains a mystery to me.”
A watercolour drawing, A Spaniard with a Dagger, is also on display in this room. Lermontov’s belief that his ancestors had been originally from Spain inspired him to write his first drama, The SpaniardsRussian: Ispantsy or Испанцы, and later he painted the portrait of his mythical ancestor on a wall in Lopukhin’s houseRussian: dom Lopuhinyih or дом Лопухиных. Lermontov imagined that his Spanish-born ancestor the Duke of Lerma had escaped from the Moors and fled to Scotland. The exhibition displays the coat of arms of the Lermontovs who were actually Scots by origin.
In Moscow, Lermontov first attended a boarding school for nobles and later the Moscow University. On Lermontov’s desk, visitors will see a mathematical textbook by Etienne Bezout, an almanac entitled CepheusRussian: Tsefey or Цефей, in which Semyon RaichRussian poet and translator, who worked as a teacher at the boarding house of Moscow University published works by students of the boarding school, as well as the school’s charter and Lermontov’s application to the Moscow University.
Two other rooms, the Big and Small ParloursRussian: Bolshaya i Malaya gostinaya or Большая и Малая гостиная contain décor dating back to Lermontov’s times. The Empire-style Small Parlour is by far the coziest room in the house and it is where Lermontov’s family, neighbours and friends would often sit together.
While in Moscow, Lermontov fell in love with Yekaterina Sushkova, and this boyish infatuation resulted in a collection of poems written in 1830. You will see the girl’s profile drawn by Lermontov himself in a rough copy of the poem entitled StanzasRussian: Stansy or Стансы.
Lermontov’s feelings for Varvara Lopukhina were much stronger. A self-portrait that Lermontov offered her as a gift is his most authentic portrait. It shows the poet as a NizhegorodskyRussian: Нижегородский regiment officer against the background of the Caucasus Mountains.
Lermontov was very good at drawing and painting. The Small Parlour displays his graphic works and portraits – one of Svyatoslav Raevsky, who helped Lermontov to spread one of his best-known poems, Death of the PoetRussian: Smert poeta or Смерть поэта, and another of Aleksey Stolypin, a friend of Lermontov’s, dressed as a Kurd. Later, Stolypin was Lermontov’s second in the duel which killed Lermontov.
The Big Parlour is also designed in the Empire style. A tafel klavierRussian: тафель-клавир, a kind of piano popular in Russia in the 1830s, stands in the centre of the room, which was used mostly for receptions. The walls are decorated with family portraits painted by an unknown serf painter in the early 19th century, including those of Lermontov’s mother Maria Mikhaylovna, who died in 1817 at the age of 21, and of his grandmother Elizaveta Alekseevna.
Lermontov’s room is located in the mezzanine. Here, away from Moscow’s hustle and bustle, Lermontov would meditate, read and work on new literary pieces. By his departure from Moscow in 1832, he had written 250 short poems, 17 long poems and 3 dramas.
This room immerses the visitor into the poet’s world. Portraits of Lermontov’s idols, Lord Byron and Pushkin, are on view here, along with a bust of Napoleon. Book racks are lined with works by Pushkin, Shakespeare, Schiller, books on philosophy and literary works by Lermontov’s contemporaries. Lermontov was an avid reader and, in his Moscow house, he amassed an impressive library, in which he took great pride.
The Lermontov House Museum is relatively small, and the almost total lack of exhibit descriptions is one of its serious drawbacks. At the same time, the house boasts unique objects which give the visitor an overall impression of this distinguished Russian poet’s world and of the role of Moscow in his life.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com