Architectural Park Ensemble

Kuskovo is first mentioned in documents dating from the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was a small boyar estate only about seven kilometers from Moscow. The land was not good for cultivation, and was thus of little economic significance. The estate was however an ideal hunting ground. In 1715 the Kuskovo estate was bought by Count Borisn Sheremetev from his younger brother Vladimir. The elder Sheremetev was a well-known Field Marshal in the times of Peter the Great, a hero of the battle of Poltava, and a companion-in-arms to the Tsar. He was later given the title of count. His son and heir Peter Sheremetev became, after his marriage to Princess Varvara Cherkasskaya in 1743, one of Russia's richest noblemen. The neighbouring Cherkassky estate, Veshniakovo, was added to Kuskovo, and in accordance with the fashion of the day, a huge country residence was built on the combined grounds for holidays and pleasure trips.

Kuskovo was built between 1740 and 1780. The bulk of the construction was carried out in the 1750s. The eighteenth-century engravings and drawings give us an idea of the special layout of the estate. The axis more than three kilometers long runs from the south-east to the north-west of the estate, and serves to link up three component parts – the ground beyond the lake, the formal park, and the landscape park. The compositional centre is the one in the middle – the formal park, which retains to the present day its original layout. Elements of regularity were also introduced into the part beyond the lake. The three paths which dissect it are oriented towards the main portico of the Palace. The Great Lake and the island to the south-west of the estate are also designed in keeping with the overall geometrical scheme. The Great Lake together with the smaller ponds and the canal encircling the formal park make up the waterways of the estate. These are supplemented by a 300-metre-long canal which once ended at a rich ornamental sandstone wall decorated with cascade fountains. The wall has unfortunately not been preserved. The maze, a square of winding passages bordered by high hedges, introduced an element of regularity into the English landscape park.

The central feature of the estate, the Palace with its splendid forecourt and magnificent formal garden, is the best preserved part of the estate. The forecourt is combination of the designing principles of the old boyar estate and the resplendent eighteenth-century country residence. The asymmetrical, irregular arrangement of the buildings gives the forecourt a picturesque quality, while the positioning of the Palace on the main axis emphasizes its centricity.

Palace 1769-75

 

The Palace was built on the site of an old manor – house under the direction of the Moscow architect Karl Blank (1728–1793). The Palace was built in 1769-1775 in the style of early classicism. The Palace is built in wood, the traditional building material used by Russian architects. The lower floor is built in brick with a white sandstone cornice surrounding the socle. The main entrance is made in the form of a high six-column portico with the monogram PS incised on the central pediment. Two gently sloping sandstone ramps lead from the entrance and end with sphinx figures on their parapets. The Palace was intended solely for receptions and this accounts for its layout and décor which have been preserved almost intact since the 18th century.

Dutch House 1749

 

This house is modeled on typical late seventeenth-century Dutch town house. It is a two-storey brick building with white sandstone inserted in the south wall and window casings. The house was plastered and painted in imitation of brickwork. It is the earliest park pavilion. On the pediment inscribed in gilded iron is the date of the house’s construction: 1749. The Dutch House was erected in memory of Peter the Great, whom Field Marshal Boris Sheremetev served as companion-in-arms.

The pavilion stands on the bank of a small pond linked with the Large Pond by a canal. In the 18th century there had been two wooden summer-houses on the bank of the pond (to the right and left of the Dutch House): the Stolbovaya or Doric Gallery and Pagodenburg (Chinese House) which have failed to survive.

Italian House 1754-55

 

The Italian House, built under the direction of Yuri Kologrivov (1692? – 1754) in the style of a seventeenth-century Italian villa, looks like a small palace. The building’s proportions are well thought out. The surface of the brick walls is rhythmically broken by Tuscan pilasters. The roof is decorated with wooden balustrades and ornamental vases. A deep loggia was built on the east side of the upper floor. The moulded window casings were made in the 1770s from a design by Johann Just. The original layout of the rooms has been preserved. The house served as a kind of private museum for the owners of Kuskovo. The Italian House is the centre of a small architectural ensemble which is situated in the eastern part of the estate formal park. The ensemble also includes the Grotto pavilion and five houses for poultry - Menagerie.

Grotto 1755-61, decorated before the early 1770s

 

This brick building, with its white sandstone columns standing on the stylobate, was designed by Fiodor Argunov (1732 – 1768?). The Grotto Pavilion was originally intended as a place to rest on a hot summer day or to entertain a few select guests.

It is positioned in a quiet corner of the park by the banks of the pond, and is supposed to resemble an underwater cave – Neptune’s Kingdom. Hence its architectural style: the fluid lines of the stylobate evocative of the surging waves of the pond; the vacillating forms of the alternatively square and circular columns, and the pattern of the wrought-iron grilles on the windows and doors resembling seaweed. The Grotto is covered with a high semi-spherical dome. The dome is crowned by a vase in the shape of a fountain. Above the main entrance there is a cartouche symbolizing the victory of water over fire.

The white sandstone statues in the niches of facades represent Zeus, Venus, Juno, Diana, Ceres and Flora. The interiors were decorated between 1761 and early 1770s under the supervision of ‘’the master of Grotto affairs’’, Johann Focht.

The windows and doors are decorated with delicate wrought-iron grilles made by craftsmen from the village of Pavlovo in the eighteenth century.

The central hall, painted in imitation of green marble, has sixteen Corinthian columns with carved and gilded capitals in the white sandstone. The floor is laid with slabs of marble. Shells from the Mediterranean, coloured stucco, glass, and sand were used to decorate the smaller side rooms. In addition to the interior there are original wooden and clay sculptures of German work, decorated by mother-of-pearl and pieces of mica, united by one theme of rest and joy.

Grotto occupies a special place within architectural plots of the estate. This is only construction in Russia and one of the small part in Europe, which preserved its unique interior.

Menagerie

 

In a wide semicircle facing the Grotto is the Menagerie comprising five small stone buildings

used in the 18th century as a shelter for swans and other water fowl. The design belongs to

Fiodor Argunov. However, the Menagerie has not been preserved. What we have today is an

exact replica of the 18th century design built in the 1980’s after the surviving drawings and plans.


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