Documents of the Yakunchikov family

Marina Astafieva

Magazine issue: 
#3 2020 (68)

In the early 1990s, Alexandre Liapine (Alexander Alexandrovich Lyapin)[1] brought the archive of the Yakunchikov family from France and gave it to the Tretyakov Gallery’s Manuscript Department. He continued to add new materials to this collection (which was given the identifying number 205) on his subsequent visits to Russia until 2008, as well as bringing documents related to the lives of Russian artists in France and of emigres connected with Russian culture. Being acutely aware of the importance of detailed information, he ordered xerocopies from French public agencies of biographical documents related to individuals who interested him and us. The final batch of documents was sent by his widow, Nicole Liapine, after his death.

Liapine received the bulk of the materials from descendants of the artist Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova-Weber in Chene-Bougeries, Switzerland. Liapine was a close relative of the Webers as his mother, Maria Vasilievna, Lyapina[3] was a niece of Maria Yakunchikova-Weber. In the difficult times of the late 1930s, when Maria Lyapina had to raise her young children alone in Paris, the Webers invited her son Alexandre (Shishka, as he was called in the family until the end of his life) to stay with them in Switzerland, which he did, spending nearly a year there.

The first batch of archival materials to arrive consisted of letters exchanged among the Yakunchikovs (only drafts survive of Maria Yakunchikova’s letter), photos of family members and photos of Maria taken by her husband, Leo Weber.

Despite serious tensions within Maria Yakunchikova-Weber's birth family, it was that family who, in large measure, shaped her as an artist. Her strong character and confidence in her chosen path made it easier for her, in certain moments, to break free from her father when he showed his merchant's mettle.

Vasily Yakunchikov with his daughters and son-in-law
Vasily Yakunchikov with his daughters and son-in-law
From left to right: Vladimir Sapozhnikov, Yelizaveta Sapozhnikova (née Yakunchikova), Vasily Yakunchikov, Maria Yakunchikova. Yalta. 1887. Photograph
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery

A very rich Moscow-based family of industrialists[4], the Yakunchikovs were keen on art, especially music, and active in philanthropy and education, like other families they were related to: the Alexeevs, the Mamontovs, the Tretyakovs, the Rukovishnikovs and the Sapozhnikovs[5]. The charitable activities of the head of the family, Vasily Ivanovich, coincided with his interests: he contributed to the construction of the Moscow Conservatory and co-founded, together with Nikolai Rubinstein and others, the Moscow chapter of the Russian Musical Society (RMS)[6].

Vasily's family members shared his interest in music. Although not regarded as a good musician, Vasily was fond of playing the violin; his wife Zinaida was known as a skilled pianist, who took lessons from the young Alexander Skriabin[7]. The Yakunchikov children were also taught music. One of the daughters, Vera, who later took her husband's name Wulff, became a professional pianist.

Although she had what it took to be a pianist, Maria stopped taking lessons because of a malady with her hand, devoting her life to visual art instead. From childhood, she had studied drawing and painting under the mentorship of professional artists, and attending drawing evenings in the home of her elder sister Natalia, where she worked side by side with Vasily Polenov's friends and apprentices[8]. She sat in on classes at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. When she settled in France, she continued her art training, attending Parisian workshops and the Academie Julian.

Like many Moscow merchant families, the Yakunchikovs had many children and an intricate network of relatives, so the inner dynamics at work in the family were complex. Vasily Yakunchikov, the head of the family, was an educated person cast in a European mould, although when at home in everyday life, he was more like an old-style merchant, penny-pinching and high-handed.

Alexandra Golshtein[9] wrote that he was “a very clever man, often witty, a pleasant talker <...> but along with these virtues, he also had some rather significant and strange character flaws <...> an extraordinary materialism and an absolutely extravagant stinginess". Unlike her husband, Zinaida Nikolaevna “not only was not stingy - she was a lavish spender, although the funds at her disposal were limited: Vas[ily] Iv[anovich] would give her a certain sum every year - to all appearances, this was the interest accrued to her dowry"[10]. Yakunchikov's stinginess in minor things sometimes ran to the absurd, although in such matters as the children's education, healthcare and travel, money was expended liberally. Spending a lot of time outside Russia, Yakunchikov sometimes (perhaps as a special favour) would take his family on his travels and this gesture was met with gratitude on the part of his wife and children. Maria wrote to her father: “You cannot imagine how delighted I am when I'm thinking that you and I again will be in foreign lands, in this strange, magic world"[11].

Vasily was certain that his family members should be living under his supervision and strict control. When he discovered his wife's note reminding him to pay the rent for their Parisian apartment, as well as their daughters' other bills, he wrote to Maria, apparently barely able to keep his temper in check: “I've been taking care of the apartment myself <...>, but I don't understand the other expenditures. If there is an urgent expenditure (which, however, is impossible with the monthly allowance of 2 francs), you should refer to your father and give an account of your expenditures; if I've scraped together all I can to provide for my family, this doesn't mean I'm obliged to issue funds on first demand - I have my own plans to pursue."[12] Vasily Yakunchikov would not tolerate disobedience. According to a family legend, he sold the Vvedenskoye estate to punish his daughter Zinaida for marrying in secret13. It was a serious blow for the family.

Later, Alexandra Golshtein reminisced: “Had Vasily Ivanovich not sold Vvedenskoye, Masha wouldn't have chosen to live abroad. Vvedenskoye for her was tantamount to Russia"[14]. Maria wrote from Biarritz: “In the morning, when the warm smell of hay and slanting rays of the sun come through the open window, I'm dreaming of Vvedenskoye"[15]. She usually spent her summers in Russia. When Vvedenskoye's new owners allowed her to work on the estate, she was overjoyed. She wrote to Golshtein: “Now I'm leaving for two days, on horses, to Vvedenskoye!!! You understand my feelings. I'm beside myself, all my soul is turning upside down."[16]

Vasily's family were closely watching changes in his mood since so much depended on it. “Vasily Ivanovich isn't haggling over expenditures now, he's eager to avoid confrontation and trying to keep the peace,"[17] Zinaida wrote to her daughter.

Travelling with her father in the Netherlands, Maria wrote: “He's been out of humour since morning, every now and then steering the conversation to the discussion of Zina, and how the lives of all the people around him (children) have not been turning out the way he would wish and plan".[18] Vasily was probably disappointed by the family ties formed by his younger daughters. Indeed, his children from his first marriage married into the families of Mamontov and Sapozhnikov, and only Natalia married the painter Vasily Polenov, although her father did not disapprove of this marriage as he felt great respect for the artist.[19] Zinaida Nikolaevna's children, however, departed from this tradition. Zinaida Vasilievna's second husband was an army officer, Grehn; Olga married the doctor Nikolai Mikhailov; Maria may have already been envisaging her marriage to the doctor Leo Weber; and Vera married the crystallographer and mineralogist, Georgy Wulff.[20]

The strange aspects of the Yakunchikov family were especially noticeable to their close relatives. Vera's husband, a scholar, could not understand his mother-inlaw's preoccupation with everyday affairs. He wrote to Leo Weber: “Zinaida Nikolaevna arrived, trifling matters are the order of the day"[21].

Savva Mamontov, a cousin of Zinaida Nikolaevna's, who had versatile interests and was energetically involved in diverse cultural activities, loathed the spirit and tenor of his relatives' lives[22].

One would think that the critics of the Yakunchikovs' way of living were not always fair in their judgment. The correspondence shows that the Yakunchikovs lived an interesting and fulfilling life. Love for music united members of the family and contributed to peace among them. Every Muscovite knew about the music club in their house on Kislovka, as well as its beautiful mistress, Zinaida Nikolaevna. On Wednesdays, there were concerts given by professional musicians, students of the conservatory and the Moscow chapter of the RMS, with the participation of Zinaida and her children. Four pianos permitted the performance of serious concerts.

In her letters to Maria in France, Zinaida kept her daughter up to date about what was going on day in and day out in Moscow23. The letters contain accounts of expenditures and a wide range of little things of life, alongside news of music events in Moscow and in the house on Kislovka. Interesting highlights include her judgments about beginning musicians who later came to fame, as well as news about new opera and drama productions that are now considered classics.

In her letter of April 7, 1891, she wrote: “Yesterday night we had music: a Bach concerto on three grand pianos. Your favourite quintet and much more. Polenov was listening to the Bach concerto with its score in front of him. He was happy on account of Natasha's convalescence and the birth of his daughter Maria"[24]. The same year, on October 3: “Hřímalý is entreating Vasily Ivanovich to organize a quartet performance at our place"[25]; and on January 26/ February 7, 1893: “Kolya is listening to operas for hours on end and tried to prevail on me to come with my family to Leoncavallo's ‘Pagliacci'"[26]. Although Zinaida and her children were trained musicians, they continued to polish their skills. On February 18, 1893, she wrote: “In the afternoon I'm expecting a music teacher, he'll help me to figure out a little piano piece"[27]. Two days later: “Zina is singing scales with the teacher,"[28] while “Kolya is fretting over the fact that he isn't pulling off the solo he is to perform at an amateur concert <...> I'm attending rehearsals of the Musical Society from time to time and I always see there a room full of students. Safonov wants to be loved by the young."[29] In a letter of January 12/24, 1896: “Yesterday Dunya treated me to opera, and I delighted in listening to Angelo Masini in ‘Faust' <...> I listened to Siloti with my sister Vera - but he's too heavy-handed for an artistic pianist,"[30] and on the next day: “Today at a rehearsal of the Musical Society I listened to the pianist Igumnov, who received praise at the competition. Igumnov is a little like Skriabin, although he isn't as bold or artistic. He performs very difficult pieces, but without style, so it comes out as timid as a student's performance."31 The concerts also took place in the house of Vasily Yakunchikov's elder daughter Yelizaveta. In a letter of January 22, 1896: “There's a big party at the Sapozhnikovs' tomorrow. Ladies in low-cut dresses. Instead of dancing, there'll be an amusement: a quartet with Brandukov and Conus as the first violin, with Klementova as the star attraction and her students singing"[32]. In the autumn of 1896: “Yesterday all our family listened to ‘Eugene Onegin'. Vera's moving in with us on Monday, to rehearse the Bach concerto with Zina, to be ready for October 11. If Natasha and Vasily Dmitrievich are in Moscow on that day, I'll ask them to come and listen to the music."[33] On May 31/June 13, 1900: “Today in the morning Kolya approached me with a proposal <...> to go, all together, to Kolya's opera box [to listen to] Rimsky-Korsakov's opera. I've forgotten the title"[34]. On several occasions, Zinaida mentioned in the letters that she mailed scores of romances and piano arrangements of Russian operas to her daughters in France.

Judging by Zinaida's letters, the Yakunchikovs' interests were not limited to music concerts or opera performances. On January 31/February 12, 1896, she wrote about her fascination with Alexander Ostrovsky's plays at the Maly Theatre, and on February 5/17, 1897, informed Maria that she was going to Leo Tolstoy's “The Fruits of Enlightenment"[35]. The short phrase “In the evening Kolya is taking me to Alexeev's theatre, there'll be a performance and dances"[36] leads one to assume (considering the mention of dances) that the writer was referring to one of Alexeev-Stanislavsky's amateur private theatricals, which preceded the establishment of the “Publicly Accessible Theatre", later renamed the Moscow Art Theatre.

In her letters, Zinaida almost never touched on the subject of her daughter's painting lessons and participation in exhibitions. One of the rare occasions on which she did, was in a letter of November 22/December 2, 1896: “Just returned from the Tretyakovs. As we dined, Pavel Mikhailovich said that there's a young artists' show in the making in St. Petersburg and your name is on the list. Pavel Mikhailovich asked whether you've entrusted me with keeping your works, whether you've left them in Moscow for a display. Maybe Pavel Mikhailovich could have a look at them in advance"[37]. The “Exhibition of Artistic Exercises (Sketches) of Russian and Foreign Artists", organised in St. Petersburg by Ilya Repin, featured five of Yakunchikova's works. The subject of the artist's ties to the “Mir Iskusstva" (The World of Art) society comes up in a letter of June 26/July 9, 1900. Zinaida wrote: “In the afternoon I received a notification from Diaghilev about the box with the paintings being sent to your office address in Moscow"[38].

Zinaida gave quite a vivid description of interesting people who visited the Yakunchikovs' house. June 10/23, 1900: “Yesterday was a joyous day. Our guest was the American ambassador's secretary Jeremiah Curtin <...>, he's an ethnographer who's going to Siberia [and] China, to study and write about the country. Vasily Ivanovich was delighted to meet him. Today Curtin and his wife again are having breakfast at our place, and we invited <...> Natasha and Vasily Dmitrievich <...> He admires Tolstoy's [old] works <...> Curtin even spoke about Gorky (the new writer), who was mentioned in the letters to you from St. Petersburg - Volodya Vasilievich read a lot of him."[39]

Zinaida often visited the Tretyakovs' home, concerned herself with the particulars of their life, felt anxious about her sister Vera's deteriorating health. Much of Zinaida's letters are devoted to such matters as weddings, baptisms, ladies' gowns and brides' dowries, not to mention financial transactions. Her letters are typical for the mother of a big family concerned about her children, their well-being and peace in the family. Regrettably, whenever Moscow cultural events are mentioned in her letters, they are only briefly touched upon, yet, the letters exchanged among the family members give a good idea of the kind of environment in which Maria grew up.

Alexandra Golshtein wrote about Maria: “She inherited [from her parents] their most valuable traits. From her father, an immense, clear, inquisitive, practical mind. She was kind-hearted, not at all stingy, and would often help prudently and generously, although all her life she knew the value of money and handled her financial affairs with the utmost accuracy and parsimony. This practical streak made things much easier for her over the course of her life. She owed her great talent for painting to her mother, to her mother's innate aestheticism - it was not for nothing that Zin[aida] N[ikolaevna] was born Mamontova". Next Golshtein, comparing Maria to the artist Marie Bashkirtseff, who was very popular in France, wrote: “Masha looked nothing like a society girl - she couldn't even master ordinary accommodating manners and would be the last possible person Frenchmen could find endearing. But much more importantly, her potent talent did not in the least need imitation and help but invariably followed its own course always and in every situation"[40].

Maria belonged to the generation of the offspring of rich industrialists and merchants who took for granted such things as good education, music lessons, knowledge of European languages, travel, interest in culture and artistic pursuits.

Although Maria's last letters, addressed to her husband, Leo, survive, any earlier ones exist only in the form of drafts. These drafts are fine examples of epistolary writing: the letter writer comes across as a very talented person with a heightened aesthetic sensitivity.

Nature in the South of France astounded the young artist, who travelled to Biarritz for treatment in 1889. She was very observant and, sometimes, it seems that she approached nature as if it were a talented painter: “Speckles of brown and blue, violescent, that is the colour of sand without sunlight and reflexes from the sky. Thus many talents soften their formula with unadulterated intuition, and pieces come out well"[41]. Although she normally had a way with words, in this letter, Maria had difficulty selecting the right ones to express what appeared to be an elusive idea. Another letter dated the same year: “Night falls quickly, everything blackens, two or three street lamps are reflected in the black water, and the white sails of the fishermen's boats, like night butterflies, silently glide past the doque to the quay,"[42] meaning that the letter's recipient - perhaps Leo Weber (just a distant relative then) - could clearly visualise the scene seen by the artist. The letters she wrote travelling across the Netherlands are similarly poetic: “A huge Gothic church, seen from a large distance, seems to be drowning in the huge canal; the bright roofs of the homes, the blades of the windmills - all is enveloped in the yellow sunlight and pale blue fog"[43]. On September 14, 1891, writing from Russia, Maria told Alexandra Golshtein about the pains she was taking to furnish the apartment of her recently married sister Olga, about her plans to take a look at “the Polenovs' homelife, which I always find warm and endearing, and there, and there <...> Wagram, my dear aunt Sasha, Volodyushka, dear Paris, <...> You know, I'll be attending the workshop again, I need to do lots and lots of studying <...> Where is our dear Maka?"[44] She formed very close, family-style ties with the Golshteins and Leo Weber; she was eagerly looking forward to meeting them, she was sharing her most precious plans with them - to start working independently and rent a studio in Paris to this end. She wrote to the Golshteins' friend Ivan Grevs: “Dear uncle Ivan! I seem to have completely fallen into decadence since I've been painting on faience. Just don't worry, this is a temporary fad"[45]. Perhaps Maria did not want to upset a professor who obviously disapproved of the new art trends, but due to her involvement in the arts in Paris, as well as her close contacts with the elder kindred spirit Yelena Pole- nova, she could not help thinking about a new mission of art and the turn her artistic career was going to take next. Later, writing from Biarritz on July 9, 1895, she complained to Yelena that she had been abandoned by the “ghost" (perhaps referring to inspiration with a mystical touch): “I hope, dear Yelena Dmitrievna, that the ghost is resting with you rather than walking around without purpose <...> And now I'm starting to feel that it's somewhere not very far away. I'm spending my days in sadness and despair, anxious that the ghost would never come back, or it suddenly appears and I'm preoccupied by efforts to take hold of it and use its presence, in which case I have other things to worry about besides letters or whatever. Regrettably, it communicates with me weirdly - it comes, it teases me, it besots me, and the next day it's gone, and all that's left are sketches and drafts of little value"[46]. There can be no doubt that as Yelena and Maria were staying in touch, Polenova influenced Yakunchikova's art. This showed itself in the use of new techniques, as well as in an interest in the themes of Russian fairy tales and the decorative dimension. In late 1897 to early 1898, Yelena was living in Paris and working in Maria's workshop. “I'm happy that you're having a good time with Yelena Dmitrievna,"[47] wrote Zinaida Yakunchikova to her daughter. Several days later she wrote: “We've had a grand music night. Polenov is buoyant. He's asked about you and was surprised to hear that Yelena Dmitrievna is spending time with you in Paris."[48]

In Russia in 1898, despite a serious illness, Yelena continued to work: “I envy you because you're now doing with gusto what you want. I, on the contrary, after a Parisian vacation am doing the work that I've promised to do. Truth be told, however, I'm doing it with pleasure and without much exertion. I'm talking about Maria Fyodorovna's room. In moments of rest, during intermissions, so to say, I'm making Annushka (the laundrywoman) tell fairy tales and relishing them <...> So much juice, so much inspiration in Russia <...> I'm feeling very sick <...> I'm not staying in Russia this winter, but where to go? To go anywhere at all, I ought to do the following first, in Russia: 1) finish the assignment, 2) sort out my financial affairs, 3) patch up my health, 4) get as much Russian spirit in my lungs as I can"[49].

Quite a lot of Maria's letters were written in the last years of her life, when she was giving birth to her sons and her deteriorating health was casting a shadow of gloom over her life. She started making the rounds of sanatoriums, feeling anxious about her family: “Your letter, my darling, has given me a lot of worry. I can see that your domestic machine isn't spluttering into life."[50] Her letters reveal a combination of the joy of parents watching their kids grow and fear in face of the inevitable.

Expecting her firstborn, Yakunchikova started filling a notebook. On its first pages, she placed her photographs. These were followed by this entry: “November 7, 1898. Yesterday at 4 1/2 Styopa was born <...> November 21. Sunday. My dear child, my joy, you're three weeks old today already! How you've changed, become so big! And I'm still unable to follow your development, your growth, and I've already missed so much in your development"[51].

Subsequent brief entries focused on her son's health, as well as drawings: the sleeping toddler's head, an apple brought by a grandmother. The pages feature photographs recording the changes as the boy was growing. In April 1901, Weber pitched in, writing about the second son Yasha.

The notebook brings with it a sense of sadness. It was included into the last batch of documents from Liapine, passed to the Tretyakov Gallery by his widow. Perhaps it was difficult for him to part with this notebook.

Quite large groups of documents have not been included in the inventory of the Yakunchikov family's archive. The items left out are letters exchanged among the senior Yakunchikovs, including Maria and Vladimir, who left an indelible mark as scholars of Russian handicrafts, and Yelena and Vladimir. Also omitted are documents relating to the Sapozhnikovs, who were closely connected with the Alexeevs and lived in Lyubimovka; the Golshtein family's documents; and documents related to the third generation of the Yakunchikovs, many of whom lived in France. These may turn out to be a priceless depository of information about the lives of Russian emigres in France.

 

  1. Alexandre Liapine (1927-2011) was a son of Maria Vasilievna Polenova-Lyapina (1891-1976), who was, in turn, the middle daughter of the artist Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov (1844-1927) and his wife Natalia Vasilievna (1858-1931), nee Yakunchikova. His father was Alexander Nikolaevich Lyapin (1890-1944). Alexandre Liapine was Maria Polenova-Lyapina’s second child. Maria Polenova-Lyapina’s first marriage (which, like the second one, did not last long) was to her cousin Vladimir Emilyievich Moritz (1890-1963), by whom she had a daughter, Marina Vladimirovna (1914-2000), who, in her first marriage, was Mrs Kadhe and, in her second one, Mrs Kelepovskaya. Living in France, Alexandre Liapine collected rare items connected to Russian culture all his life in order to later send them to Russia. In addition to the collection he gave to the Tretyakov Gallery, he made the following gifts: to the Bakhrushin Central Theatre Museum, sets and costumes designed by Konstantin Korovin for Sergei Diaghilev's productions; to the Radishchev Art Museum in Saratov, Alexei Bogolyubov's paintings; to the Polenov Museum, Korovin's composition “Two Peasant Women" he bought at an auction. Liapine also took care of the graves of Russian cultural luminaries at the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Genevieve-des- Bois and, with his own hands, renovated the tombstones on the graves of his friends and relatives. At Liapine's instigation, Veules-les-Roses, the abode of a colony of Russian artists in the second half of the 19th century, hosted a festival of Russian arts. In 2005, one of its streets was named the Street of Russian Artists after a ceremony attended by the town's officials and Russia's ambassador, Alexander Avdeev.
  2. Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova (1870-1902), who became Mrs Weber, was a painter and graphic artist. Her husband, Leo Nikolaevich Weber (1870-1956), lived with his children and grandchildren in Chene-Bougeries, Switzerland, in a house bought shortly before Maria's death.
  3. Maria Vasilievna Polenova-Lyapina was taught painting and drawing by her father, Vasily Polenov. Her specialty was handicrafts. Before leaving Russia, she designed and executed embroideries for the famous dressmaker Nadezhda Lamanova (1861-1941) and, in France, she did the same for acclaimed fashion houses. She organised a Chinese shadow puppetry theatre, engaging Russian emigres' children in its productions; the performances were in Russian and in French. She was buried in Paris in Sainte-Genevieve-des- Bois and, in 2007, Liapine brought her remains to Russia and reburied them at a cemetery in Bekhovo, near the Polenovs' graves.
  4. The Yakunchikovs owned brick factories in Odintsovo and Cheremushki and the Voskresenskaya cotton-spinning plant (the holdings of the factories and the plant included land and country seats). In the late 19th century, the equipment at the facilities was upgraded. Vasily Yakunchikov spent much of his youth in England, where he studied business management and was connected with the firm S. Matveev and Co. - an importer of textile tools to Russia. In Moscow, he built the Petrovsky Shopping Stalls. The Yakunchikovs spent summers in Europe or on their Morevo estate (not far from Mytishchi) and earlier, before it was sold in 1884, on the Vvedenskoye estate near Zvenigorod.
  5. Vasily Yakunchikov's first wife was Yekaterina Vladimirovna Alexeeva (1834-1858), with whom he had three children: a son, Vladimir Vasilievich Yakunchikov (1855-1916), married to Maria Fyodorovna (1864-196), nee Mamontova; a daughter, Yelizaveta Vasilievna (1856-1937), married to Vladimir Sergeevich Sapozhnikov (1855-1916), whose mother was also from the Alexeev family; and a daughter, Natalia Vasilievna, the author of the book “Maria Vasilievna Yakunchikova. 1870-1902" (Moscow. 1905). Vasily Yakunchikov's second wife was Zinaida Nikolaevna, nee Mamontova (1843-1919), a sister of Vera Tretyakova. Their children were: a daughter, Zinaida Vasilievna (1863-1929), first married to Emile Yulievich Moritz (died in 1891), and later, to Nikolai Nikolaevich Grehn (died in 1951); a daughter, Olga Vasilievna (1867-1917), married to Nikolai Maximovich Mikhailov; a daughter, Maria Vasilievna (18701902), married to Leo Nikolaevich Weber (1870-1956); a daughter, Vera Vasilievna (1871-1923), married to Yuri (Georgy) Viktorovich Wulff; and a son, Nikolai Vasilievich (1873-1931), married to Olga Gerve; as well as three children who died in infancy.
  6. The Moscow chapter of the Russian Musical Society (RMS) was founded at Nikolai Rubinstein’s (1835-1881) instigation in 1860, on the model of the RMS’s St. Petersburg chapter, directed by Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894). The Moscow chapter’s committee consisted of several members, including Nikolai Rubinstein, Sergei Tretyakov and Vasily Yakunchikov. 1866 saw the foundation of the Moscow Conservatory. Yakunchikov’s philanthropic activities were diverse and he had a long track record as an office holder at a number of civic organisations.
  7. Alexander Nikolaevich Skriabin (1872-1915) was a composer and pianist. In his youth, he gave lessons to Zinaida Yakunchikova. Her name comes up in Skriabin’s correspondence. “Alexander Skriabin. Letters”. Moscow. 1965.
  8. In her early youth, Maria Yakunchikova was a frequent guest of her elder sister, Natalia Polenova. In Natalia’s house, she had the chance to enjoy the creative atmosphere of the drawing evenings Vasily Polenov organised at home for his students and friends.
  9. Although coming from a different background to that of the Yakunchikovs, Alexandra Vasilievna Golshtein (1850-1937) became a member of the family. Her first husband was Nikolai Weber and their son Leo married Maria Yakunchikova; her second husband was Vladimir Avgustovich Golshtein (1849-1917), a nephew of Vasily Yakunchikov (whose sister Varvara Ivanovna was married to Avgust Golshtein (died in 1948). Much later, a grandson of A.V. and V.A. Golshtein, A.Yul. Semenov (1900-1986), married Maria Yakunchikova’s granddaughter Denise Weber (1929-1992), an artist.
  10. Manuscripts Department, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item 392. Sheets 7 and 8. Alexandra Golshtein’s memoirs survive in the form of drafts. A typed copy is held at Columbia University’s archive in the USA. A xeroxed copy is held at the Tretyakov Gallery’s Manuscripts Department.
  11. Ibid. Item 24. Sheets 1 and 1 reverse. A draft of the letter of March 9, 1889.
  12. Ibid. Item 129. Sheets 1 reverse and 2. Letter of June 30, 189[1].
  13. An account of this can be found in the memoirs of Vera Pavlovna Ziloti (nee Tretyakova, 1866-1947), a cousin of the younger Yakunchikovs - she wrote that Zinaida “fell for an extremely interesting, cultivated man of Jewish extraction, a widower <...>. Unmoved by all of Zinaida’s entreaties, Vasily Ivanovich didn’t allow her to marry the man and she decided to elope <...>. Aunt Zina, who liked Moritz and understood Zina, decided to abet the elopement <...>. Vasily Ivanovich was mad with anger <...>, went away and immediately sold Vvedenskoye, their estate.” Quoted from: Ziloti, V.P. “In the Tretyakov House”. Moscow. 1998. P. 39. The marriage ended tragically. Emil Moritz, the owner of a small chemicals factory in the Bogorodsky uezd (province), became bankrupt and died on the day of his bankruptcy, a circumstance suggestive of suicide. The Moritzes’ property was auctioned off. Zinaida was left with three children and her dead husband’s son.
  14. Department of manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item 392. Sheet 25.
  15. Ibid. Item 32. Sheet 1. A draft of the letter.
  16. Ibid. Item 393. Sheet 1. A photocopy of a copy of the undated letter (in Alexandra Golshtein’s handwriting) held at Columbia University’s archive.
  17. Ibid. Item 159. Sheet 1 reverse.
  18. Ibid. Item 30. Sheet 1. A draft of the 1891 letter.
  19. Vasily Ivanovich wrote to his daughter on February 23, 1893: “Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov is out of humour, I want to give a music party soon and shall invite him”. (Ibid. Item 133. Sheet 2.) On May 6/18, 1896, Zinaida Vasilievna wrote that they visited Polenov’s workshop: “He showed and explained everything to us very nicely, praised you and your works, and Vasily Ivanovich listened to it all with pleasure, and so did I”. (Ibid. Item 228. Sheet 1.)
  20. Yury Wulff taught at universities in Kazan, Warsaw and Moscow. He was a professor of mineralogy and crystallography and an associate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  21. Department of manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item 413. Sheet 1.
  22. Savva Ivanovich Mamontov (1841-1918) expressed his feelings towards the Yakunchikov family in a letter to Natalia Polenova. Addressing her in the third person, he wrote: “we wanted to attach her to ourselves, to disengage her from the money-minded environment where everything is converted into roubles, to wean her from the influence of people for whom poetry, art, ideals are mere words worthy of just a smile”. (Fund 54. Item 10894. Sheet 2.) Savva Mamontov believed that, when Natalia married Vasily Po- lenov, she quickly forgot the Mamontovs, the family where she was treated like someone near and dear and where she received what she needed: understanding, family warmth and contacts with talented, creative people. The misunderstanding between the Mamontovs and Natalia was soon settled; the harsh and probably unfair judgment was the result of the impetuousness of the angry Mamontov.
  23. The archive contains more than 200 of Zinaida Yakunchiko- va’s letters to her daughter Maria. Scrawled in barely legible handwriting (something Skriabin complained about), the letters are hard to read and many of them are undated. The years when particular letters were written were identified based on the contents, references to days of a week linking with dates and months and sometimes descriptions of the weather.
  24. Department of manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 205. Item 158. Sheet 1. A reference to the birth of M.V. Polenova, Alexandre Liapine’s mother.
  25. Ibid. Item 166. Sheet 1. Ivan Voitsekhovich Grzhimali (1844-1915) was a violinist and professor of the Moscow Conservatory.
  26. Ibid. Item 171. Sheet 3.
  27. Ibid. Item 173. Sheet 1.
  28. Ibid. Item 174. Sheet 1.
  29. Ibid. Item 203. Sheet 2. Letter of November 28 [1895 г.]. Vasily Ilyich Safonov (1852-1918) was a pianist, conductor, professor and director of the Moscow Conservatory.
  30. Ibid. Item 219. Sheet 1 reverse. Yevdokia (Avdotia) Nikolaevna Rukavishnikova (nee Mamontova, 1849-1921) was Zinaida Yakunchikova’s sister. Her husband Konstantin Rukavishnikov (1848-1915) was a famous philanthropist and a onetime head of the Moscow self-government. Angelo Masini (1844-1926) was an Italian singer, a tenor who performed many times at opera houses in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Vera Nikolaevna Tretyakova (1844-1899, nee Mamontova) was Zinaida Yakunchikova’s sister, married to Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. She was a philanthropist and amateur pianist. Alexander Ilyich Siloti (1863-1945) was a pianist who studied under Nikolai Rubinstein and Pyotr Tchaikovsky and polished his skills under Franz Liszt’s mentorship. A conductor and one-time director of the Moscow Conservatory, he was married to the Tretyakovs’ daughter Vera Pavlovna.
  31. Ibid. Item 220. Sheet 2 reverse. Konstantin Nikolaevich Igumnov (1873-1948) was a pianist and professor at the Moscow Conservatory.
  32. Ibid. Item 222. Sheet 1 reverse. Anatoly Andreevich Brandukov (1859-1930) was a cellist and teacher. Julius Eduardovich Conus (1869-1942) was a violinist and composer. Maria Nikolaevna Klimentova-Muromtseva (1856-1946) was an opera singer (soprano), teacher and the first performer of the role of Tatyana in “Eugene Onegin”.
  33. Ibid. Item 232. Sheets 1 and 1 reverse. Natasha and Vasily Dmitrievich are the Polenovs.
  34. Ibid. Item 328. Sheet 2 reverse. Perhaps the reference is to the opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” at the Private Opera in Moscow. Kolya is Nikolai Yakunchikov.
  35. Ibid. Item 262. Sheet 2.
  36. Ibid. Item 251. Sheet 2.
  37. Ibid. Item 244. Sheets 1 and 1 reverse.
  38. Ibid. Item 339. Sheet 1.
  39. Ibid. Item 333. Sheet 1 reverse. Jeremiah Curtin (1835-1906) - a major ethnographer and linguist. Upon graduation from Harvard University in 1864-1870, he worked as a secretary at the US Embassy in St. Petersburg. Volodya Vasilievich is Yakunchikov. He was often referred to in this way in the letters and his wife was referred to as “Masha Fyodorovna”, perhaps in order not to confuse them with other relatives with similar names.
  40. Ibid. Item 392. Sheets 13 and 14. Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884) was an artist who worked in Paris. She mixed with writers and artists. “The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff” was published in 1887, after her death.
  41. Ibid. Item 5. Sheet 1. The letter is undated.
  42. Ibid. Item 31. Sheets 2 and 2 reverse. Letter [1889].
  43. Ibid. Item 30. Sheet 1. Letter of April 19, 189[3].
  44. Ibid. Item 7. Sheets 1 reverse and 2. Wagram is the street in Paris Yakunchikova lived on. Aunt Sasha: a reference to Alexandra Golshtein. Volodyushka: a reference to Vladimir Avgustovich Golshtein. Maka: a reference to Leo Nikolaevich Weber.
  45. Ibid. Item 386. Sheet 1. A xerox copy. The original is at Columbia University’s archive, USA. Ivan Mikhailovich Grevs (1860-1941) was a historian, an expert on medieval culture.
  46. Ibid. Item 16. Sheets 1 reverse and 2.
  47. Ibid. Item 285. Sheet 1. A letter of December 27 [1897] / January 8 [1898].
  48. Ibid. Item 287. Sheet 1.
  49. Ibid. Item 93. Sheets 1-2 reverse. A letter [spring 1898]. Polenova was designing a Russian-style dining room for Marya Fyodorovna Yakunchikova’s house.
  50. Ibid. Item 9. Sheet 1.
  51. Ibid. Item 602. Sheet 5.

Illustrations

Zinaida Yakunchikova. 1862
Zinaida Yakunchikova. Photograph. 1862
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Vasily Yakunchikov. Photograph [1890s]
Vasily Yakunchikov. Photograph [1890s]
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Maria Yakunchikova. Photograph. 1880s
Maria Yakunchikova. Photograph. 1880s
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Vladimir Yakunchikov, Maria Yakunchikova and Vasily Yakunchikov [1880s]
Vladimir Yakunchikov, Maria Yakunchikova and Vasily Yakunchikov [1880s]
Photograph
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Vera Yakunchikova. Moscow. Late 1880s
Vera Yakunchikova. Moscow. Late 1880s
Photograph
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Letter from Maria Yakunchikova to her sister Natalia Polenova. August 23, 1888
Letter from Maria Yakunchikova to her sister Natalia Polenova. August 23, 1888
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
A sketch by Maria Yakunchikova in a letter to Natalia Polenova. 1888
A sketch by Maria Yakunchikova in a letter to Natalia Polenova. 1888
Watercolour on paper. 5.3 × 3.2 cm
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Interior of the Yakunchikov house in Moscow in Sredny Kislovsky Pereulok. 1893
Interior of the Yakunchikov house in Moscow in Sredny Kislovsky Pereulok. 1893. Photograph
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Pavel Tretyakov. 1897
Pavel Tretyakov. 1897
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Vera Tretyakova. 1894
Vera Tretyakova. 1894
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Sisters Vera Mamontova (married name Tretyakova) and Zinaida Yakunchikova. Photograph. Early 1860s
Sisters Vera Mamontova (married name Tretyakova) and Zinaida Yakunchikova. Photograph. Early 1860s
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Biarritz. 1889
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Biarritz. 1889
Watercolour on paper. 34.2 × 20.9 cm
© Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve
Receipt issued to Pavel Tretyakov on the purchase of Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s painting “Autumn”. January 18, 1898
Receipt issued to Pavel Tretyakov on the purchase of Maria Yakunchikova-Weber’s painting “Autumn”. January 18, 1898
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Zinaida Yakunchikova. 1910s
Zinaida Yakunchikova. 1910s
Photograph
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Maria Yakunchikova’s draft notes with a sketch [1889]
Maria Yakunchikova’s draft notes with a sketch [1889]
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Biarritz. A sketch from Maria Yakunchikova’s letter to Leon Weber. 1889
Maria YAKUNCHIKOVA. Biarritz. A sketch from Maria Yakunchikova’s letter to Leon Weber. 1889
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery
Alexandre Liapine, Iren Weber and Nicole Liapine in the Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow. [1993]
Alexandre Liapine, Iren Weber and Nicole Liapine in the Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow. Photograph. [1993]
© Manuscript Department of the Tretyakov Gallery

Back

Tags:

 

MOBILE APP OF THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY MAGAZINE

Download The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine in App StoreDownload The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine in Google play