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Kuskovo: a palace with a parterre and greenhouses

Beginning in the article Visit to Kuskovo to see Count Sheremetev


Once in the space of the front yard, we see the first transverse planning axis in front of us, passing along the shore of the pond and concentrating the main buildings of the estate - the Palace, the church and the kitchen wing. The oldest building here is the Church of the Savior, built in 1737-39. There used to be 4 statues in the niches of the church building, and the roof was crowned with a statue of an angel with a cross, which was recently restored. The bell tower appeared much later, in 1792, by the will of Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev, who is well known to us thanks to his scandalous marriage to the serf actress Praskovya Kovaleva-Zhemchugova, therefore, the bell tower is absent in the engravings of M. Makhaev, which preserved the historical appearance of the estate for us.

Kuskovo. Church of the Savior

The original building of the Palace was smaller than the one we see now, and repeated the appearance of the Sheremetevs' Fountain Palace in St. Petersburg. In 1769-75. C.I. Blank rebuilt a dilapidated wooden palace in the classicism style according to the project of Charles de Vailly.

The building of the palace has no wings traditional for that time. The wings of the palace would have limited and dismembered the space of the Parade courtyard, therefore the central portico is decorated on the sides with two projections instead of protruding wings.

Kuskovo. Palace from the side of the pondKuskovo. Palace from the side of the park

To the right of the house, under the windows of the banquet hall, stood six cannons - trophies of the Battle of Poltava, presented by Peter I to Count Sheremetev. They responded with fireworks to shots from the yacht.

The suite of halls of the palace, according to the traditions of that time, was supposed to amaze the guests. Each room was decorated in its own color scheme. Living rooms and rooms were then called by the color of their upholstery: blue living room, crimson living room, white room. Each room and hall had its own purpose. The tapestry, decorated with magnificent tapestries that occupy all the free space of the walls, was intended for family music concerts. A card room and a billiard room, a picture room and a library, a vast crimson drawing room with a mechanical organ, a ceremonial and daily bedchamber. The ceremonial bedchamber, upholstered in green silk with roses, was specially equipped for the arrival of Catherine II. As a result of the stay of the French in 1812, the silk upholstery of the halls was practically lost, it was restored according to the drawings and the remaining scraps and scraps found behind the baseboards and furniture.

Kuskovo. White HallKuskovo. Jardiniere with flowers
Kuskovo. Organ in the crimson living roomKuskovo. Billiard roomKuskovo. Aquarium

The space of the ceremonial halls was decorated with jardinieres with flowers, aquariums and tubs with citrus fruits.. Aquariums were still in fashion at that time, which came along with porcelain from the East, and consisted of a large white earthenware pot, painted inside with fish and seaweed. Water was poured into the aquarium, which fluctuated from the steps of guests on the wooden floor, creating the impression of the movement of fish in the aquarium, and sometimes a saucer with pebbles was placed next to the aquarium, which could be thrown into the water.

Having passed through the suite of ceremonial rooms, we turn into the master's chambers: an office, a sofa, a library and an everyday bedchamber. Walking around half of the house, we found ourselves in a picture room. The rich collection of paintings in the estate included not only unique masterpieces, but also paintings by serf artists commissioned by the owners. It is no longer possible to return the hall to its previous appearance: earlier, a symmetrical hanging of paintings was adopted close to each other, when canvases of equal size were placed in identical frames, symmetrically filling the space of the walls. To do this, the paintings were selected according to color, size and theme, not paying attention to their uniqueness and mercilessly cutting the edges to fit the frames. The rich collection of Sheremetev's paintings also declined sharply after the stay of the French in 1812.

From the picture room we find ourselves in a white mirror gallery - a huge hall adjacent to the banquet hall.In the 18th century, the cult of food flourished, not a single meeting or event, be it a ball, hunting or theatrical performance, was complete without a festive dinner, sometimes dragging on until the morning.

For banquets in the palace there is a special hall with a pantry room with access to the kitchen building. On especially solemn occasions, the table could be served in any dance hall of the estate - in the Mirror Gallery, in the Grotto or in the Big Greenhouse. Ready meals were brought to the pantry from a separate kitchen building through a special trellis gallery, densely surrounded by a linden tree. To prevent food smells from absorbing into the upholstery, the banquet hall was decorated with painted panels. The niche that adorns the hall and is painted under the trellis pavilion is also noteworthy.

Kuskovo. Banqueting hallKuskovo. Kitchen cabinet
Kuskovo. Banquet hall nicheKuskovo. Trailing gallery of the kitchen building

A long feast was turned into a show. The dining room was decorated with flowers and orange trees in tubs. By the size and number of these trees, one could judge the size of the owner's capital, so in Kuskovo, Count Sheremetev had about 600 orange trees. For each holiday, artists re-created sketches of fireworks, decorative structures in the park in the form of gazebos and arches, table decoration, theater scenes and costumes. The table was decorated in accordance with the developed sketches, starting from the shape of the table itself, which could be figured, and ending with the decor of table linen and napkins. The side of the tablecloth was beautifully pinned up with flounces and decorated with flowers and ribbons, it was customary to put a small bouquet in front of each device. These bouquets carried a personal wish to the guest and, knowing the meaning of each flower according to the then fashionable "language of flowers", the guest had to decipher this message on his own.

The guests were informed about the beginning of the gala dinner - "interpretation", as they said two centuries ago - a cannon shot from the cannons standing under the windows of the banquet hall, which were echoed by shots from the yacht. The table amazed not only with the amount and sophistication of dishes and changes, but also with exotic fruits and food ingredients.

Kuskovo. Ballroom

A mirrored or white gallery, used as a ballroom or as a banquet hall on special occasions, overlooks the park. The wall opposite the windows is decorated with window frames, glazed mirrors that fill the room with light and reflections of the park. It is curious that such a trifle as the size of the parquet pattern in the ballrooms was also foreseen and calculated according to the size of the dance step. The typical decoration of large ceremonial halls with mirrors in window frames, so popular in the 18th century, originates in the mirror gallery of Versailles and is repeated many times in all royal residences in Europe.


The windows of the hall overlook the parterre of the regular park, which attracts attention with its strict geometric layout and logically continues the banquet hall.

Kuskovo. Parterre view

Nature in a regular park is strictly subject to the will of the architect. It is not without reason that landscape designers used to be called garden builders or park architects. Symmetry reigns here, strictly defined regular forms, linked into a single composition with the plan of the estate. Everything, down to the height of the plants and the color of their foliage on the parquet-flat living room, the area of ​​the park is taken into account and calculated, like the color of the furniture upholstery in the halls.

Kuskovo. Parterre in front of the northern facade of the Palace. Engraving

Active work on the arrangement of the Amusement Garden, as the regular park in Kuskovo was then called, began in the middle of the 18th century under Count Peter Borisovich Sheremetev under the leadership of foreign gardeners - Karl Reinert, Johann Manstatt and Peter Rakk, contracts with which were renewed every two to three years ...

According to an eyewitness, the park looked like this: “There are huge laurel and orange trees of a century in the greenhouses. On the islets one could see now a fishing hut, now Chinese pavilions under the shade of mighty cedars. Two lighthouses towered on the shore. A gilded yacht with cannons and a Chinese junk floated on the lakes, swans glided importantly.Cranes, pheasants, peacocks, pelicans roamed freely along the paths. "

The regular park has a traditional three-part division. The central part between the buildings of the palace and the greenhouse is occupied by a parterre and decorated with flower beds, ridges, lawns, paths and numerous sculptures. Right and left - bosquets, alleys and pavilions. In the parterre and in the alleys, up to 60 surviving marble figures were previously exhibited. Busts were placed symmetrically on both sides of the parterre on high pedestals. To visually increase the length of the parterre, two busts were placed along the half of the parterre closest to the palace, and four along the farthest. Four sculptures depicting the time of day were placed so that the sun alternately illuminated the figures "Morning", "Day" and "Evening" at the appropriate time of the day, always leaving the sad "Night" in the shade.

Kuskovo. Marble sculptureKuskovo. Obelisk

The sculptural content of the parterre has changed over time. In 1779, a column with a statue of Minerva was installed on the central axis of the parterre to commemorate the visit of Catherine II to Kuskovo in 1774. The image of the empress in the form of the goddess of reason Minerva was very popular at that time. In addition, a sundial, a figure of the Italian work "Le fleuve Scanmindre" and an obelisk by Arkhip Ivanov made of multi-colored granites, presented by the Empress Sheremetev in 1785 to commemorate her next visit, were placed on the main axis. Tall architectural elements located on the central planning axis are complemented by lower ones - urns on pedestals, symmetrically placed in two lines parallel to the main axis.

Kuskovo. MinevraKuskovo. Bust
Kuskovo. Allegory of the Scanmindre RiverKuskovo. Garden urns

Thanks to the high side walls of the bosquets, flanking the parterre on both sides, we, looking out of the windows of the Hall of Mirrors or going out of it onto the porch, get the feeling of a single huge hall stretching to the Great Stone GreenhouseThe parterre is currently being reconstructed. To make it the same as on the engravings by M. Makhaev, who captured the heyday of the estate, turned out to be a difficult and difficult task. Painstaking research work preceded laborious work in the park, during which it was found out what types of plants were planted in the regular park and what agricultural methods were used by gardeners of that time. A century-old larch has miraculously survived from the past centuries in the stalls, which could share amazing memories with us.

Kuskovo. Parterre like a hallKuskovo. Larch

The sides of the regular park are bosquets lined with straight alleys. Crossing at right angles, they form multi-ray stars at the intersection and are visible through. Each alley is closed by a pavilion, sculpture or "perspective writing" (this was the name of decorative panels depicting perspective or some architectural object: gazebos, ruins, mills). The illusion of the volume of the painted canvases was so real that “even some poor dog was deceived and smashed his face, trying to run into a non-existent space,” as one of his contemporaries recalled.

Kuskovo. Blende

In Kuskovo, unique garden trompe l'oeil carved from plywood in the form of painted figures of ladies and gentlemen are still preserved. Once such garden trompe l'oeil was a must-have in gardens. Also, the garden was decorated with live green sculptures of animals, birds and people from skillfully trimmed beeches and yews.

Once upon a time the walls of one of the rooms of the Palace were completely occupied by the views of Kuskov, painted by the famous perspectivist M. I. Makhaev and his student Grigory Molchanov. These paintings preserve the historically accurate look of the 18th century estate. The decoration of the hall with views of our own estate came to us also from Versailles, where the Grand Trianon gallery is still decorated with views of the Versailles park of the era of Louis XIV. Subsequently, Makhaev's drawings were turned into engravings, in the process of engraving they were slightly corrected and the printed engravings were collected in an album on Russian gardening art of the 18th century, published abroad.So Kuskovo became a role model.


Following the direction of the central planning axis, we passed the parterre and approached the Big stone greenhouse.

Gardens and parks of the late 18th - early 19th centuries played the role, if not of private botanical gardens, then of extensive collections of plants. Such nobles as the Sheremetevs, Golitsyns, Yusupovs were racing to instill in their fatherland the latest European achievements, an interest in natural science research, botany, and geographical discoveries.

In 1761-62. According to F. Argunov's project, the Big Stone Greenhouse, or the Greenhouse House, with a central octagonal pavilion standing between two glass galleries ending in small one-story pavilions was erected on the site of the old wooden greenhouse. The building vaguely resembles the Sanssouci Palace. She served not only as a greenhouse, but also as a dance hall. In 1780, it was here that a "flower ball" was held in honor of the visit of Catherine II.

Kuskovo. Large stone greenhouse, south facade

The central pavilion is two-tiered, on the south side facing the Palace, it is crowned with a balustrade with decorative vases. The greenhouse pavilions are richly decorated with columns, stucco molding and coats of arms. The play of light and shade on all these elements contrasts with the simplicity of the frequent bindings of the glass galleries.

Kuskovo. Large stone greenhouse, north facade

The decorative design of the southern facade of the greenhouse was due to the need to visually enlarge it so that it would not be lost at the end of the 300-meter parterre. But the northern facade is much more modest and looks like a one-story building with a three-part division. On the north side, the side pavilions are smooth, with two rows of windows and no domes visible from the south.

Kuskovo. Entrance to the large greenhouse The huge entrance doors of the Greenhouse are deliberately made wide and high in accordance with the fashion for the dress of the late 18th century, which runs counter to the functional purpose of the building. Such doors allowed a gentleman with a lady dressed in a dress with figs to enter the dance hall and side pavilions calmly and without hindrance. The hall is double-height due to arched windows above the door, which emphasize the height and solemnity of the setting. Inside, the hall is surrounded by a balcony intended for orchestra musicians. Side glazed galleries, ending with one-story pavilions, served as a winter garden and a resting place for strolling couples and mothers waiting for their daughters. Winter gardens were an obligatory "paradise" of Russian estates and an indicator of the wealth of the owners.

The Sheremetevs did not spare funds for highly qualified personnel, they invited the most famous foreign masters, giving them the subordination of serfs who adopted the secrets of their skills. So serfs became musicians, choreographers and actors, painters, architects and gardeners. Now we are interested in the work of the latter. The serf gardeners of the count themselves planted in the greenhouses the orange, orange, lemon, as well as coffee and laurel trees, which were especially valued at that time. The Kuskovo greenhouse contained one of the richest collections of exotic plants and flowers in Russia. Despite the harsh climatic conditions of Russia, the skill of the gardeners of that time made it possible to grow flowers and exotic fruits in greenhouses all year round for the table of the nobility. Peaches and pineapples, oranges and lemons grew and ripened in the greenhouses of Kuskovo. Sheremetev loved to shine, having sent a basket of peaches from his greenhouses to the Empress's table in December.

Kuskovo. American greenhouse Next to the Orangery House in the eastern part of the park is the American Conservatory, which was intended solely for household needs. This is one of the earliest buildings in Kuskovo. Five sections of the greenhouse on a stone foundation, differently oriented to the sun, were built in the 1750s. The name of the architect remained unknown, because the value of this building was due only to the exotic and ornamental plants grown here.

Where did the name, the American greenhouse, so unusual for Russia at that time come from? The Plant Catalog of 1786 prosaically explains the term "American greenhouse" as a building of "great heat". Five sections of the building had their own names: Coffee, Peach, Big Orange, Oblique Orange, and Extreme Orange. Optimal use of sunlight was achieved by various slopes of roofs, as well as "recumbent and standing" window frames, oriented to the south, southeast and southwest, which made it possible to choose the most favorable regime for growing thermophilic plants. To enhance the thermal effect, the galleries were glazed with cheap greenish glass. Apricots, peaches, pineapples, grapes and coffee grown here served not only as an adornment for the solemn dinners of the generous owner, but were also supplied to the table of eminent nobles, such as Prince G.A. Potemkin. Eight laurel trees, which are 300 years old, have outlived all the owners of the estate and are still growing. The current American Conservatory was rebuilt on the site of a partially preserved structure in the 1970s and 1980s.

With the change of generations of owners, Kuskovo gradually lost its luxury. To eliminate the consequences of the standing of the French in 1813-15. the manor was renovated, but the former splendor was already lost, in the 1830s. dismantled the theater building, Pillar and Chinese pavilions near the Dutch house. After the abolition of serfdom in 1861, it became almost impossible to maintain a regular park without a staff of free gardeners. The park began to fall into desolation and overgrow. At the end of the XIX century. most of the estate's land was cut and sold for summer cottages. All property of the Sheremetevs was nationalized immediately after the October revolution. This is what made it possible to save the estates of Kuskovo and Ostankino from destruction. The last owner of Kuskovo - Sergei Dmitrievich Sheremetev - after 1917 lived in his Moscow house on Vozdvizhenka. In November 1918, the Chekists confiscated all correspondence, diaries and valuable things of the count, the owner of which did not get out of bed. A month later, the 75-year-old count died and was buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Spassky monastery.

In 1919, Kuskovo turned first into a museum of local lore, and then into an architectural and artistic reserve, which in 1932 was combined with a museum of applied arts. Later the museum was transformed into a museum of porcelain and ceramics, which is now housed in the premises of two greenhouses in Kuskovo.

The collection of the museum is based on A.V. Morozov's collection of more than 3000 porcelain items of the 18th century, mainly Meissen porcelain.

The museum has over 18 thousand exhibits. Among these riches, it is worth mentioning Italian majolica, items with paintings by Adam Loewenfink and Heraldt, small sculptures by I.I. a service presented by Napoleon to Alexander I on the occasion of the conclusion of the Peace of Tilsit.

End in article Kuskovo: bosquettes with pavilions and Gai