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Ryabushinsky’s Mansion

6, Malaya Nikitskaya Street

S.P. Ryabushinsky’s mansion is a remarkable monument of the Moscow modernist style, built in 1900-1903 upon the project by architect F.O. Shekhtel. It is currently home to the Gorky Memorial House Museum.

The concise, two-storey building, lined with light ceramic tiles and decorated with elegant mosaic friezes depicting irises, orchids and other plants, does not have a parade façade and does not lend itself to visual impressions. The mansion is completely asymmetrical. Large windows, powerful protruding entrance volumes, horizontal cornices with multi-tiered roofs, are separately distinct and correctly geometric, but together all elements of the building create a tumultuous picture. Shekhtel’s main work, regardless of its apparent massiveness, is very elegant and architecturally pure, probably because of the light single-tone colour range and deliberate composition. The original interiors of Ryabushinsky’s mansion are such that the central staircase is reminiscent of a wave delivering a lamp that looks like a medusa up to the first floor. The lounge’s ceiling is decorated with stucco depictions of field and marsh plants being crawled over by large snails, while salamanders and lilies wind around the chapiter of the column on the second floor. On the secret third floor, there is an Old Believers’ prayer room. It is decorated with a carpet in neo-Russian style that links early Byzantine and ancient Russian elements with the modernist style.

After the revolution, the building housed the People’s Committee of Foreign Affairs, then for some time the mansion was home to the Main Administration of the State Publishing House (“Gosizdat”), which was visited by the poets Yesenin, Mayakovsky and Bryusov. In 1931, Maksim Gorky returned to the USSR from Italy and stayed in Ryabushinsky’s estate. The writer of the play “The Lower Depths” about the Moscow’s poor, ordered the removal of the fireplace with bas-reliefs of women and butterflies, and called his room the “ballerina’s bedroom”. Gorky made campfires in the garden in the evenings, whereas he received guests in the former merchant halls, including Nikolai Bukharin, Samuil Marshak, Romain Rolland and Iosif Stalin. Today, there is a Gorky memorial apartment museum in the mansion (free entry). There is a curious collection of eastern art and personal affects of the writer, however the exhibition’s main display remains Shekthel’s grand interiors.

In 1942, the author of the novels “Peter I” and “The Road to Calvary” Aleksei Tolstoy was housed in the former servants’ quarters on the second floor of the Ryabushinskys’ wing. A museum to the writer opened in 1987. Old furniture and individual works of art from Tolstoy’s personal collection have been preserved in the rooms.

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