Libmonster ID: BY-1551
Author(s) of the publication: Alexei Zotov

The urgent need for historical paintings, which might serve the cause of national enlightenment and progress appeared in the 18th century in Russia. At that time we had no museums, exhibitions or other artistic institutions of public character. Dreaming of creating major nationwide secular art in the country, M. Lomonosov decided to decorate the interior of the Peter and Paul Cathedral--where Peter the Great is buried--with monumental mosaic pictures that were to represent the most important events of new Russian history. Hardly any other exhibition space for the mosaics, where public at large could see them, was available at that time.

The monumental scale of the mosaic "The Battle of Poltava", which survived to the present day (USSR Academy of Sciences, Leningrad, now RAS, St. Petersburg), richness of its colors with somewhat simplistic drawing, exemplifies the skill of Lomonosov and his assistants as mosaic artists. The remarkable portraits of Peter I and B. Sheremetev, based on their lifetime portraits, are impressive in their power of characters and completeness of plastic forms. The patriot scientist was eager to employ the stained glass he had invented for bold artistic innovation.

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Moreover, he was perfectly aware of professional points required for monumental mosaics: for instance, the necessity of laying big decorative tiles. Lomonosov's experiments to revive the art of mosaic did not gain any support. The art of Russian mosaic was truly reborn only in our times.

In his work Ideas for Picturesque Drawings Based on Russian History, Lomonosov proposed a specific program aimed at creation of a new secular art in Russia, suggesting a number of subjects drawn from chronicles, historical works and literature. It was a call to Russian painters to reveal heroic and patriotic themes of national history, a call for artistic originality and progress. The program of the new Russian art, outlined by Lomonosov, went beyond traditional religious and palace art. It had a nationwide significance. According to Lomonosov, princes and czars must be portrayed first and foremost as statesmen. National heroes and patriots of the Fatherland occupy a prominent place in Ideas for Picturesque Drawings.

The poem "Conversation with Anacreon", one of the principal works of Lomonosov, argues with Rococo idyllic art. There Anacreon asks the artist to portray his beloved. Lomonosov urges the artist to portray an allegorical figure of Mother Russia:

Oh Master, the first in art

You, the first in our land

Deserve to be born by Minerva,

Portray Russia for me,

Portray her mature age,

Content in joy,

Delight in brow

And pridely raised head. The "Conversation with Anacreon", written by Lomonosov in his last years, became his testament, a call to guard and guide national art for the benefit of Russia.

Alexei Zotov, Russian Art From Ancient Times Till Early 20th century, M., Iskusstvo, 1979.


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Alexei Zotov, HISTORIAN ON PAINTING // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 22.09.2021. URL: (date of access: 23.06.2024).

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