Maxim Gorky’s HouseRussian: Dom-muzey Maksima Gorkogo or Дом-музей Максима Горького (6/2, Malaya NikitskayaRussian: Малая Никитская Street) in Moscow is a unique Art Nouveau building bearing traces of the collision of two epochs. Here, you will not only experience the life and creative work of Maxim Gorky, a five-time Nobel Prize nominee, but also enjoy the picturesque interior and unusual design solutions of renowned architect Fyodor Schechtel. Maxim Gorky, the founder of a new literary movement, Socialist Realism, and the author of The MotherRussian: Mat' or Мать, Life of Klim SamginRussian: Zhizn Klima Samgina or Жизнь Клима Самгина, The Lower DepthsRussian: Na dne or На дне, Vassa ZheleznovaRussian: Vassa Zheleznova or Васса Железнова, The EnemiesRussian: Vragi or Враги, among other works, lived in this building, whose rooms continue to preserve the atmosphere of that era.
The Ryabushinsky period
In the years preceding the Russian Revolution of 1917, this building belonged to the industrialist family of Ryabushinsky, who purchased this piece of land situated at the intersection of two streets and subsequently commissioned the best-known architect of the time Fyodor Schechtel to built the mansion for them. By that time, the Art Nouveau style had reached the height of its popularity. Elsewhere, it is also known as the Secession or Modern style. Built by Schechtel between 1900 and 1903, this mansion became one of Moscow’s Art Nouveau classics and brought even more fame to its creator.
The house owner, Stepan Ryabushinsky, was among the wealthiest people in Moscow. He ran the Ryabushinsky banking houseRussian: Bankirskiy dom bratyev Ryabushinskikh or Банкирский дом братьев Рябушинских, and in 1916 – one year before the Russian Revolution – he founded an automobile factory which later became widely known as ZiL (or Likhachov PlantRussian: Zavod imeni Likhachyova or Завод имени Лихачёва), one of the largest automotive enterprises in the USSR.
Ryabushinsky House was built of reinforced concrete, a novel architectural material at the time. The whole building is designed in the same style; everything, right up to the door handles, was produced in the Art Nouveau style according to Schechtel’s original designs. The mansion abounds with exquisite moldings, unique tiled panels decorating the facades, and graceful and stylish architectural forms. Nine stained glass windows were installed in the mansion according to Schechtel’s drawings.
The mansion blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape, with larch trees and lilacs planted in a little garden, and the mansion was literally drowned in flowers in springtime. In winter, the astoundingly beautiful ceramic panels kept ‘blooming’ on the building’s facades, decorated with images of orchids, irises and other flowers. Over time, this building’s beauty inevitably began to attract Muscovites who were strolling past and the owner would enjoy showing off the artwork on his building.
The building’s interior design is even more striking than its outside. The design uses the motif of the underwater world, echoed in the colouring of the interiors painted aquamarine blue, in the seahorse-shaped door handles, and the depictions of foliage which complement the façades.
The wave-shaped staircase is made of polished grey granite and topped with an unusual chandelier reminiscent of a jellyfish. All rooms in the house have fine wood flooring, beautiful fireplaces and ceilings covered with stucco. Painters Vinogradov, Vrubel and Frolov all contributed to the intricacies of the interior.
The windows are especially impressive; each of them features a unique shape and a window sash, so that when looking you are looking out the windows, you will not only see a window frame, but you’ll also have the impression that you’re looking out at a painting in a beautiful frame. Arranged at different levels, these windows give the illusion of a multi-storey building, although it only has two floors.
The merits of the mansion go beyond its mere design. The house featured the very first air conditioning system in Moscow, and an air duct located under the staircase served to heat the building. What’s more, a spot lighting system was also installed throughout the building, with the bulbs were embedded right into the ceiling, making the house look incredible at night.
A fence facing the street deserves special attention. Though it was erected after the main building was constructed, it is harmonious with the rest of the mansion – its wrought iron spirals came to symbolize the Ryabushinsky estate.
Ryabushinsky was a fervent Old Believer. At the time, Old BelieversOrthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666 were persecuted in Russia, so he had to set a secret chapel in the floor of the attic of his mansion. One gets there by climbing three flights of a long staircase. The stunningly beautiful chapel shares a lot with early Christian churches. Its mural paintings show a surprising mix of Art Nouveau and Old Believer traditions, with its vault shining with reflected light in the evenings. On the ceiling are depicted evangelic symbols and an inscription in ancient Greek which translates to: ‘Those women who are truly Christian will receive sanctity for their suffering on Judgement Day’.
Museum of Maxim Gorky
In 1917, the new government appropriated the building, which subsequently housed the department of the People’s Commissariat (Ministry) of EducationRussian: Narkomat (Ministerstvo) prosvescheniya or Наркомат (Министерство) просвещения, the department of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign AffairsRussian: Narkomat po inostrannym delam or Наркомат по иностранным делам, and even, at one point, a kindergarten. The building was gradually falling into neglect. On the orders of Stalin, Alexey Peshkov, a writer better known under the pseudonym Maxim Gorky (1860–1936), moved into this house in 1932.
The Ryabushinsky Mansion was refurbished according to Gorky’s needs. One of the marble fireplaces was taken apart, numerous bookcases were brought in; a bedroom and a study were also kitted out. The house was frequently visited by delegates of writers’ conferences as well as by foreign guests. It is here that Gorky received the French writer Romain Rolland and worked on his epic novel The Life of Klim Samgin, his final work about the Russian revolution and the role of Russia’s ‘intelligentsiathe intellectual stratum of society’ in it. Joseph Stalin and those close to him were also frequent visitors to the mansion throughout the 1930s. Gorky’s life and death remain an enigma, and there are some hints that Gorky and his son may have been poisoned, but this hypothesis has never been confirmed.
After Gorky’s death in 1936, the house’s furnishings and decor were left the way they had been during his lifetime. The Gorky Memorial Museum was opened in 1965 with the participation of Nadezhda Peshkova, the widow of Gorky’s son’s who continued living in the mansion.
The museum has an unusual tradition – every visitor is asked to leave his or her name in the museum’s guest book containing the names of absolutely everyone who has ever been here. Visitors can examine a secretary’s office packed with closets full of books and Soviet magazines, a library, a vast dining room showing the place where Gorky used to sit, as well as his study. The latter displays many of Gorky’s personal effects, unique collections of views of his beloved Italy, along with a curious collection of Japanese sculptures called netsuke. On the desk are an inkpot and some sharpened pencils. Gorky’s walking stick, boots and coat are on display in the hallway, just as they were during Gorky’s lifetime.
Gorky’s bedroom contains souvenirs dear to his heart and a portrait of his son Maxim, who passed away before his father. Maxim’s rooms were located on the second floor, where he lived with his wife Nadezhda and daughters Darya and Marfa. To pay a visit to these rooms, you will need to go to the second floor. Today, these two spacious rooms display portraits and caricatures of Gorky, gifts from Soviet workers and a memorial plate from the Gorki health resortRussian: pansionat Gorki or пансионат Горки, where the writer passed away.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com