Léon Benois

Born: 1856, New Peterhof
Died: 1928, Leningrad

Architect, painter, teacher. Grandson of architect Alberto Cavos (1800–1863), son of Nicolas Benois and Camilla Cavos (1828–1891), younger brother of Albert Benois, elder brother of Alexander Benois, uncle of Yevgeny Lanceray and Zinaida Serebryakova, grandfather of actor Sir Peter Ustinov (1921–2004). Studied architecture under Alexander Rezanov, David Grimm and Alexander Krakau at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1875–79). Married Maria Sapozhnikova (1880), whose family owned Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and Child with Flowers (1478), which subsequently became known as the Benois Madonna after it was sold to the Imperial Hermitage (1914). Academician of architecture (1885), full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1893). Designed the Court Choir Capella in St Petersburg (1885–89), Likani Palace in Georgia (1892–95), St George’s Church in Gus-Khrustalny (1892–1901), St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw (1894–1912), Russian Orthodox chapels in Darmstadt and Bad Homburg (1896–99), Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Kovno Lane in St Petersburg (1908–09), tenement block at 26-28 Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt (1911–14) and the Benois Wing of the Russian Museum (1914–19). Reconstructed the facade of the Finnish Lutheran church of St Maria (1890s), foyer of the Hermitage Theatre (1904) and the White Hall of the Mariinsky Palace (1907–08), headed construction of the Grand Ducal Burial Vault at the Peter and Paul Fortress (1896–1908). Editor of the Zodchy magazine (1892–95), founding member of the Society of Architects and Artists (1903, honorary chairman 1922–28). Taught at the School of Drawing of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (1879–84), Institute of Civil Engineers (1884–92, 1920–27; professor from 1892) and the Imperial Academy of Arts/VKhUTEIN (1892–1927; professor from 1892; dean 1903–06, 1911–17). Arrested by the Bolsheviks for six months (1921–22). Died in Leningrad and buried at the Volkovo Cemetery (1928). Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1927).

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