Tag Archives: Mikhail Lomonosov

Mikhail Lomonosov statue, Muzeon Park, Moscow

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I got a kick yesterday reading this post on the Facebook page of director Philipp Grigorian: “I am incapable of grasping the concept of this damned ‘muzeon.’ I think it’s hellacious trash. What the frig is this Lomonosov standing here for, not on a granite pedestal in the center of a park named for him, but in the mud under some bush, next to some damn deer made out of tubing????” He accompanied his mini-rant with two photos – Lomonosov in the mud and the tube-made deer standing nearby.
You see, just a few weeks ago I myself walked through this place called Muzeon and snapped a few photos myself, including these of Lomonosov (I passed on the deer). I thought I’d probably lay them away for some rainy day when I’d have nothing else to write about, but Grigorian made me want to come back to them right now – not to take issue with him, or even to agree with him, but just because these carelessly snapped shots all of a sudden took on a certain real-time urgency.
Muzeon is the outdoor sculpture park behind the House of Artists located on Krymsky Val in Moscow. It is essentially a graveyard for sculptures and monuments. There’s a creepy, well-made one of Stalin here, and lots of hack-jobs of Lenin. In these pages I have written about several somewhat more interesting pieces that can be found here – Maxim Gorky, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov and maybe another one or two. You can chase those down on this blog spot.
But Philipp is right, of course. There is a weirdness to this place. It makes no sense. Many of the abandoned old monuments – ones to Brezhnev and his ilk – stand in lines like bad tombstones. I wrote about a marble Pushkin here that is bizarrely stuck in a corner between two sidewalks coming together. When I photographed it, its feet were covered in dirt – just a royal mess. The better, more intriguing pieces, like this Lomonosov, are sometimes fortunate to be outside of a graveyard grid. But Grigorian’s question is the first that comes to mind for anyone passing through – what the hell is this doing here? Where was it before? Why isn’t it there now? Is this really the best place they could find for this?

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This sculpture of Russia’s “first genius” – a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, poet, playwright and more – was made by Leonid Baranov (born 1943). Baranov is a successful sculptor who specializes in work honoring famous individuals. He created a likeness of Peter the Great that stands in Amsterdam (where Peter went to learn the craft of shipbuilding), and he is the author of a monument to Fyodor Dostoevsky that stands in Baden-Baden (where Dostoevsky loved to gamble.). The Lomonosov sculpture we see here is actually a duplicate of an original which was created in 1980 for the Lomonosov Theater in Arkhangelsk, near the great man’s birthplace.
To what I fear will be the chagrin of Philipp Grigorian, this duplicate was forged a second time from the original cast in 1991 specially in order to stand here in the Muzeon Park. That would explain why it stands outside the “gravestone rows” – it’s not a salvage job, but rather a purposeful choice on someone’s part.
I rather like the piece. It has a comics-like feel while also doing honor to historical reality. The nice rufflery (if that’s not a word it should be) on the shirt corresponds pleasantly to the layers of curls in Mikhail’s presumably powdered wig. The gaze, even through two blank orbs, is specific and focused. The facial expression is blank enough for us to read what we want into it, but clear enough to offer a sense of knowing and self-value. The chubby cheeks fit nicely with the low, but long, forehead, the broad, rolling shoulders and the comfortably protruding belly. Also of interest to me is the tiny book in Lomonosov’s left hand, and the large, strong, outstretched right hand that many passersby evidently cannot pass without giving a good shake. I did it myself and I swear Lomonosov returned back a nice, firm, gentlemanly shake.

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Mikhail Lomonosov monument, Moscow

IMG_9688.jpg2IMG_9686.jpg2You have no idea what stories you’re walking into when you approach a monument on the street. The one I highlight today honors the great Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), Russia’s first everything in the arts and sciences. He was essentially the first poet of any consequence, playwright, translator, scientific experimenter, chemist, physicist, astronomer, geologist, metallurgist… He studied in Kiev, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Marburg and Freiburg, to name a few places. In 1755 Moscow University was established according to Lomonosov’s plan. That’s all pretty well known. A few of us who studied Lomonosov’s plays and poems have had a laugh or two, let’s be honest. But then if we’re going to be honest,  let’s also be fair: How many of those who have laughed singlehandedly established the literary and scientific  groundwork for an entire nation? Yeah, right. Now go and laugh some more if you can.
What I, at least, had no inkling of is that the monument to Lomonosov which now stands before the old building of Moscow State University on Mokhovaya Street just across from Red Square and the Kremlin, is the third to grace this space. The first was a small bronze bust by Fedot Shubin which was unveiled in 1877 (1876 Old Style). This bust, however, was damaged badly in 1944 during World War II when it was struck by shrapnel from a bomb. It was decided in 1945 to commission the prominent sculptor Sergei Merkurov to replace the bust with a larger statue. He did so, but, for reasons as yet unclear to me, he employed a temporary plaster or gypsum painted to look like bronze. As a result, by 1957 his statue had to be replaced, thus bringing us to the work we now see when we walk onto the grounds of Moscow University in the city center. This image is of a young Lomonosov, perhaps still a student himself. It was sculpted by Iosif Kozlovsky. I have garnered most of this information from several pages on Russian Wikipedia.

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A little more leisurely research turns up more interesting tidbits. It seems that our poet and scholar had a hot temper and was not averse to a round or two of fisticuffs. According to an article in the newspaper Arguments and Facts, Lomonosov was once even tried and jailed shortly for fighting. One example of his physical strength and willingness to use it has become something of a legend. One evening as Lomonosov walked through Vasilyevsky Island in Petersburg he was accosted by three sailors. Lomonosov turned on them so furiously that two would-be attackers high-tailed it immediately. The third had the misfortune to land in Lomonosov’s grasp and was splayed out on the street under the learned man’s heavy hand. “What are the names of those two bandits, and what did you intend to do to me?” Lomonosov demanded of his captive. The answer quickly followed that robbery was the intent. “You rapscallions, you!” Lomonosov thundered, “Then I will rob you!” And he proceeded to strip his attacker-turned-victim of his clothes and took them home as a trophy of his exploit.
Tell me this: How many countries can claim that their first poet, scientist and learned man was also a champion street fighter?

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