Russian Museums and Galleries Moscow Museum of Private Collections Yevgeny Stepanov Collection (Rooms 201, 202, 203, 209, 210)

Yevgeny Stepanov Collection (Rooms 201, 202, 203, 209, 210)

Alongside works of painting and graphic art, the Museum of Private Collections also exhibits animal sculptures from the collection of Yevgeny Yakovlevich Stepanov (1900–1991). Yevgeny Stepanov’s interest in animal (particularly equine) sculpture is linked to his experiences in the Second World War. He fought with General Dovator’s cavalry regiment in the battles for Moscow, Tikhvin and Oryol, finishing the war with the rank of colonel. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of the Red Star. After the war, he worked as a vet, applying all his energy and knowledge to help these noble and beautiful animals.

Yevgeny Stepanov’s artistic passions also reflected his love of animals. The animal genre is one of the oldest in fine art. Although widespread in West European art, it only appeared in Russia in the first half of the eighteenth century. The first known animalist in Russia was Johann Friedrich Grooth. Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg is generally regarded as the founder of the animal genre in Russian sculpture.

Yevgeny Stepanov put his collection together over a period of fifty years – from 1925 to 1975. He concentrated on works by Russian, French, German and Austrian masters working in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Russian school of animal sculpture is represented by the works of Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg, Nikolai Lieberich, Leonid Pozen, Eugène Lanceray, Vasily Grachev and Pyotr Turgenev. The collection of West European art contains works by such famous French sculptors as Emmanuel Frémiet, Pierre-Jules Mene and Henri-Alfred Jacquemart. The most famous Austrian master in the Stepanov collection is Friedrich Gornik. The West European section contains many rare works not encountered in any other museum in Russia.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian and West European bronze sculptures were an important component of the art collections of the Russian nobility, intelligentsia and merchants. Bronze statuettes adorned the drawing rooms and studies of townhouses and the reception rooms of lawyers and surgeons. Small bronze sculptures were often given as presents. The tradition of collecting such works still survives, enjoying two heydays in the second half of the nineteenth century and immediately after the Second World War. Bronze casting from a ready form allowed works to be repeated, explaining why repetitions of one sculpture are often encountered in different museum and private collections.

In the 1890s and 1900s, such leading state-owned institutions as the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow and the Russian Museum in St Petersburg acquired many works of Russian and West European animal sculpture. During the Soviet period, the most famous collections of small bronze sculpture belonged to A. Gordon (later donated to the Tretyakov Gallery), T. and A. Shilin and Yevgeny Stepanov.

Yevgeny Stepanov acquired his first bronze sculpture in 1925 and his last work in 1975. The most active period in the formation of his collection of thirty-six works was the 1950s and 1960s.

Yevgeny Stepanov and his wife, the graphic artist Elena Orlovskaya, acquired most of the works in their collection in antique shops, which offered a wide range of authentic works in the post-war period. Small bronze sculptures by Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg, Eugène Lanceray, Henri Alfred Jacquemart and Constantin Meunier were bought in a shop on the Arbat.

The distinguishing feature of the Stepanov collection is its great diversity of subjects, including historical scenes, hunting, racing, jousting, horsewomen, trick riders and the figures of animals.

Yevgeny Stepanov owned three small bronze sculptures by Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg. Designer of the famous statues depicting man taming the horse on the Anichkov Bridge in St Petersburg, Clodt von Jürgensburg was famed for his monumental plastic forms and pure style. A master of bronze casting, he independently cast his own small models, including the three animal sculptures from the Stepanov collection. Commonly regarded as the founder of the animal genre in Russian sculpture, Clodt von Jürgensburg had a number of followers and students. The works of Nikolai Liberich and Eugène Lanceray contributed to the popularity of the animal genre in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg masterly sculpted a horse nuzzling a newly born foal. This simple scene conveys the trust of the defenceless young animal and the tender concern of its mother. The overflowing volumes and lines underscore their indissoluble unity. This theme is also the subject of another bronze statuette – Pierre-Jules Mene’s Mare Playing with a Foal. The only difference is that the latter work depicts active movement.

Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg’s Arab Stallion and Carthorse are extremely expressive works, reflecting the sculptor’s expert knowledge of equine anatomy, habits, characters and behaviour.

While Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg worked in generalised plastic volumes, the sculptures of his student Nikolai Liberich are noted for their subtle and almost jewel-like crafting of the forms. The abundance of details does not, however, detract from the integrity of the work. The theme of hunting – the favourite pastime of the Russian nobility in the nineteenth century – was particularly popular in the sculpture of that period. Liberich’s genre scene After Hunting shows dismounted riders quelling their excited hounds at the end of a chase.

The majority of works by Eugène Lanceray are narrative. This famous master of animal sculpture often portrayed dramatic scenes, full of action and movement. Hunting with Hounds depicts the riders tearing through a forest glade in hot pursuit of their borzois.

Eugène Lanceray introduced landscape elements into his sculptures, linking the figures to a definite location. His compositions nearly always contained a subject. These subjects were taken from history – Royal Falconry in the Seventeenth Century and Zaporozhian Cossack after a Battle – or the lives of different nationalities. The artist was drawn to vivid ethnic themes in such works as Don Cossack Fourrageur, Kirghiz with a Golden Eagle and Bashkir, Breezy. Lanceray paid close attention to the national costumes, weapons and outfits of the riders, planning everything down to the smallest detail.

The son of the Decembrist Nikolai Turgenev, Pyotr Turgenev was a Russian émigré. His works are largely confined to French collections and not often encountered in Russian museums. Turgenev began working in the animal genre when he was a student of the Parisian sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet. One of his best works is the small bronze figure Dragoon on Horseback (late 19th century). Although the Stepanov collection also contains works by Frémiet, these sculptures are not typical examples of his oeuvre. Old Dog and Two Beagles with a Snail display great expression and character.

Henri-Alfred Jacquemart’s entertaining scene Dog with a Tortoise is particularly popular among young visitors to the Museum of Private Collections. The curious puppy studying the tortoise is depicted with great vivacity and attention to detail. Jean Mosnier’s professionalism and experience are demonstrated in Two Dogs Playing. Carthorses with a Harrow, a sculptural group by fin-de-siècle Austrian master Friedrich Gornik, shows the foaming horses pawing the untilled earth.

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