Russian Museums and Galleries Moscow Museum of Private Collections Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul Collection of West European and Russian Glass (Room 208)

Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul Collection of West European and Russian Glass (Room 208)

In 1996, Fyodor Victorovich Lemkul (1914–1995) and his wife Ekaterina Petrovna (1916–1996) presented the Museum of Private Collections with their unique collection of West European and Russian glasswork. This collection of three hundred objects is one of the finest in Russia, ranking alongside the leading collections in the world’s top museums. The Lemkul collection covers almost five thousand years of international glasswork, tracing the evolution of the manufacture and decoration of vessels and embracing all the main centres of glass production. The geography of the exhibits is extremely wide, stretching from Western Europe to the Middle and Far East. Besides unique and representative works, the collection also includes many utilitarian objects. It is now on permanent exhibition in Room 208.

Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul were unusually passionate and serious collectors. They were married for almost sixty years, thirty of which they spent amassing their unique collection of glasswork. For many years, Fyodor Lemkul headed the graphic art section at the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists. A member of the generation of reformers of the children’s book, he created a dazzling array of different images – Uncle Stopa, Pinocchio, Doctor Dolittle, Pan Nitochka and the heroes of the poems of Daniil Kharms, Kornei Chukovsky, Agnia Barto and Sergei Mikhalkov, the stories of Sergei Baruzdin and Yury Olesha and Russian, Latvian, Czech, Italian, Polish, English and Bulgarian fairytales. Fyodor Lemkul’s fragile and transparent art appears to have influenced his choice of glass as the object of his collecting interests.

Fyodor Lemkul’s wife Ekaterina also played an important role in building up the collection. The daughter of Pyotr Shumsky, a collector of painting and porcelain, she grew up surrounded by works of art, which helped to shape her own aesthetic tastes. A student of Soviet art historian Nikolai Tarabukin, Ekaterina played “first fiddle” in the creation and study of the collection.

Before they began collecting, Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul were already acquainted with various museum collections and leading glass experts. Their first acquisition was a small goblet in an antique shop. Manufactured in the mid-eighteenth century, it was inscribed “court” on the base of the foot. Ekaterina Lemkul remembered: “It transported us back to the Hermitage showcases.”

The Lemkuls’ method of collecting was more like museum work than the traditional approach to private collecting. The team of husband and wife set themselves extremely high criteria. Fragile and unwieldy works were purchased and exchanged with other collectors. Ekaterina Lemkul scoured the antique shops. In search of works of decorative and applied art, the collectors travelled to the Carpathians, Lviv, Leningrad and Kazan. In Kazan, they acquired a miniature bone copy of Ivan Martos’s famous monument to Minin and Pozharsky (1804–18) on Red Square in Moscow. This object was later exchanged for one of the finest works in their collection – Large Cut-Glass Bottle with the Monogram of Tsar Alexander I. Ekaterina Lemkul’s personal adornments were often also the object of exchange.

Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul never sold works from their collection. Chance discoveries were stored in a special cupboard and exchanged. The collectors paid little attention to the state of objects. A damaged or broken piece was as interesting as a well-preserved work. Their favourite objects were those which they themselves had managed to restore. One example is the unique Glass on Three Spherical Legs with Allegorical Image of the Four Seasons (second half of the 17th century). The entire surface is covered in subtle and dynamic engraving, depicting male and female figures with the attributes of winter, spring, summer and autumn. Fyodor Lemkul lovingly and skilfully restored each goblet, plate and bottle to its former glory. The functional parts of the glass were restored with the help of inserts made from pewter, an old and noble material guaranteeing the continuation of the life and history of the object.

Over the years, Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul managed to put together a remarkable collection of both unusual gala works and everyday, utilitarian objects. Unlike the majority of private collections, this one traces the development of artistic glasswork from ancient times to the mid-nineteenth century.

The Lemkul collection includes such extremely rare works of ancient glass as Aryballos (1st–3rd century AD, Roman colony), Violet Glass Flask (first half of the 1st century AD, Roman colony) and a green-coloured Female Head (1st or 2nd century AD, Roman colony). Venetian glass from the Renaissance is represented by several objects. Small Jug is made from light, transparent glass with moulding, while Plate and Flask (16th or 17th century) are made from opal glass with shining insets of gold foil. Oriental glass is represented by Two Small Jugs. Similar in form to a hukkah, one of them most definitely and the other most probably comes from Iran. The blue vessel appears to have been intended for holding rose water. The light-green jug is covered in a network of ornamental engravings and inscriptions. The oriental theme is continued in Chinese Perfuming Pan (18th century) and Vase (19th century). Both works are decorated with cameo-like carvings.

The art of decorating glass vessels with engraved drawings can be seen in two Small Glasses (17th century) from Nuremberg. The first is the damaged work referred to earlier. The second was luckier and escaped the fate of the first. Although the glass is small in size, it is decorated with engraved compositions depicting the Nativity and the Fall framed by large flowers. The group of seventeenth-century glasses is supplemented by Glass with Equestrian Image of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1634?). Although copies of such glasses are often encountered in European auction catalogues, genuine works are extremely rare.

Goblet with the Cologne Coat of Arms was made in Bohemia in the 1720s or 1730s. The decorative composition of this work is extremely intricate. Each section of the goblet is covered in engraving. The coat of arms of Cologne – a lion and griffin holding a shield with three crowns and a mantle – is depicted on the body. The base of the foot contains portraits of the founders of the city, Agrippina and Britannica, surrounded by arabesques, lions, griffins and putti. This work is an excellent example of a Baroque goblet with a massive body on a richly faceted leg of complex form. The quality of engraving and the characters of the portraits rank the vessel among the most artistic works in the Lemkul collection.

The Silesian masters of engraving paid special attention to the artistic décor of drinking vessels in the 1730s and 1740s. The distinguishing features of their style were elegant and subtle engraving, an abundance of details visible only through a magnifying glass, and intricate compositions of portraits and figures. The finest example is Goblet with Portrait of King Frederick II of Prussia (1742). Besides the royal portrait, the goblet is also decorated with thirty-six miniature scenes depicting the life of military camps. Narrative engravings are encountered in other Silesian drinking cups of this period.

English glass was famed for its austere and slender forms and laconic proportions in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. This style is more or less unique in the whole history of glasswork. A series of wine glasses represent Great Britain in the Lemkul collection. Despite the apparent similarity of forms, the objects are diverse in décor and artistic working. The traditional bell-shaped bodies are decorated with engraved and gilt images of grapevines, carnations and barley leaves. The milky and aerial filaments decorating the feet please the eye and stun the imagination. The collection of English glasswork includes a cut-glass crystal Candlestick and Fish-Shaped Perfume Flask (mid-19th century).

Special place in the Lemkul collection belongs to the unique Wine Service. One of the earliest creations of famous French artist Émile Gallé (1846–1904), this service was manufactured when the great master of Art Nouveau was working in the traditions of old Bohemian glass.

Besides West European objects, Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul also collected many outstanding works of Russian glass.

The earliest authenticated information on Russian glass factories dates back to the second half of the seventeenth century. The first state-run manufactory was the Izmailovsky Glass Factory, represented in the Lemkul collection by a single object – Joke Goblet (late 17th or early 18th century). This vessel was designed in such a way that it was impossible to drink from without spilling the contents. Such cups continued to be manufactured throughout the eighteenth century. A similar Joke Goblet with the figure of a deer on a glass pivot dates from the early nineteenth century.

The produce of the Imperial and Jamburg Glass Factories are represented more fully in the Lemkul collection. The Goblet inscribed Vivat, Tsar Peter Alexeyevich was made at the Jamburg Glass Factory in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. One of the oldest works in the collection, it is also one of the finest in terms of its artistic qualities, engraving and carving. Analogous works belong to the Kuskovo Estate Museum of Ceramics and the Museum of History in Moscow. The lost base was restored by Fyodor Lemkul.

The pride of the collection is the series of gift goblets made at the Imperial Glass Factory in St Petersburg, bearing the portraits and monograms of Russian sovereigns. Goblet with the Monogram of Tsar Ivan IV (1740–41) is one of the earliest works in the collection. Goblet with Lid, Portrait and the Monogram of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (1740s) has a majestic form and rich décor. Goblet with Lid and Portrait of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (1750s) is decorated in black paint (such vessels are called “black heads”). Goblet with Lid and Portrait of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (1740s) has a red filament in the foot. The soft “painterly” style of engraving corresponded to the national artistic tradition and Russian Baroque interiors.

A rare Teapot made from transparent glass dates from the mid-eighteenth century. The intricate form of this vessel is decorated with oriental motifs. Teapots were originally used to pour out wine and other cold drinks in Russia. They only began to be used for tea in the late eighteenth century.

Such elegant objects are contrasted by works of “folk glass” decorated with polychrome paintwork. Folk glass is particularly well documented in the Lemkul collection. Jugs, bottles, glasses and kegs made from unpurified green or, rarer, colourless glass were popular in the Ukraine and Russia in the eighteenth century. They were made directly at the kiln or hutte, explaining their alternative name – hutte glass. The plastic décor – moulding, glass ribbons and filaments – was also made directly at the kiln. When the glass cooled, the vessel was painted in enamel. The most popular motifs were flowers, berries, trees, birds and human figures in national attire. Dated works are rarely encountered. Yellow Glass Jug with Milky Inset was painted in polychrome enamel in the first half of the eighteenth century. Large Kvas Jug was made in the mid-eighteenth century. The figured Bear Vessels – festive vessels in the spirit of merry folk gatherings – are closely linked to the traditions of Ukrainian glass.

The second half of the eighteenth century was a golden age of Russian glass. Coloured glasswork was one of the most expressive and exciting phenomena of this period. Mikhail Lomonosov opened a new chapter in the history of Russian glass, developing rich and pure tones of coloured glass at the town of Ust-Ruditsa in the 1750s. The Lemkul collection contains a wide range of decanters, goblets and glasses noted for their great wealth and diversity of colours. The laconic forms reflect the new style of Neoclassicism. These vessels are decorated with elegantly painted garlands of gold and silver, ribbons, stars and monograms. Examples include Large Ruby Glass Tankard with Blue-Green Crescent on the Lid (last quarter of the 18th century), Goblet with Lid and the Monogram M. Y. and Decanter with the Monogram Y. G. beneath a Nobleman’s Crown (late 18th century). All three works are made from amethyst glass.

There was a revival of interest in coloured glass during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. One of the finest works from this period is Golden-Amber Glass Tankard with a Lid and View of the Old Stock Exchange in St Petersburg (1820–30).

The group of Russian and West European milky glass deserves special mention. Most of these works were made in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Tankard (1810s) is painted in polychrome enamel. The subject of the design is Ivan Terebenev’s caricature on Napoleon’s army.

The events of the Patriotic War (1812) were reflected in various forms of Russian art, including glasswork. The Imperial Glass Factory manufactured the famous Memorial Series of Crystal Goblets and Glasses with Milky Glass Medallions. The medallions contained portraits of Russian generals and victory inscriptions. Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul owned a goblet inscribed Paris taken 19 March 1814.

In 2000, the permanent exhibition of glass from the Lemkul collection was supplemented by a small Flask. This historical work was donated by Elena Mikhailovna Makaseyeva, a close friend of Fyodor and Ekaterina Lemkul, in memory of these two remarkable collectors.

Besides works of glass, Room 208 also exhibits furniture from the Lemkul collection (trunks and commodes), works of graphic art by Fyodor Lemkul and photographs of the interiors of their apartment.

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