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Arkhangelskoye Estate Museum
Arkhangelskoye Estate Museum Review
Yusupov's neoclassical palace forms the centerpiece of a striking group of 18th- and 19th-century buildings that make up the Arkhangelskoye Estate Museum. The main palace has been closed due to restoration work for many years, and although a few rooms have recently opened once again to visitors, the completion date for the rest of the building continues to be pushed back. Check with your hotel's concierge or your tour agency for the latest information.
The main palace complex was built at the end of the 18th century for Prince Golitsyn by the French architect Chevalier de Huerne. In 1810 the family fell upon hard times and sold the estate to a rich landlord, Yusupov, the onetime director of the imperial theaters and St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, and ambassador to several European lands.
The estate became home to Prince Yusupov's extraordinary art collection. The collection includes paintings by Boucher, Vigée-Lebrun, Hubert Robert, Roslin, Tiepolo, Van Dyck, and many others, as well as antique statues, furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, glassware, and china. Much of the priceless furniture once belonged to Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour. There are also samples of fabrics, china, and glassware that were produced on the estate itself.
Allées and strolling lanes wind through the French Park, which is populated with statues and monuments commemorating royal visits. There's also a monument to Pushkin, whose favorite retreat was Arkhangelskoye. In the western part of the park is an interesting small pavilion, known as the Temple to the Memory of Catherine the Great, that depicts the empress as Themis, goddess of justice. Supposedly Yusupov turned the head of Russia's empress, renowned herself for having legions of lovers. This "temple" was built to complement a painting she had previously commissioned—one in which she was depicted as Venus, with Yusupov as Apollo.
Back outside the estate grounds on the right-hand side of the main road stands the Estate (Serf) Theater, built in 1817 by the serf architect Ivanov. Currently a museum, the theater originally seated 400 and was the home of the biggest and best-known company of serf actors in Russia. Serf theaters first appeared in Russia in the mid-18th century and disappeared after 1861, when Tsar Alexander II freed the serfs. Although serf theaters existed even in the most remote rural parts of Russia, the most prominent was housed by the Sheremetyev family at their Kuskovo estate (the theater was later moved to the Ostankino estate to the north of Moscow). The star of the troupe was the actress Praskovya Kovalyova-Zhemchugova (1768-1803), who played more than 50 opera roles during her short stage career. By 1798, when Count Nikolai Sheremetyev freed her from serfdom, she was already suffering from the tuberculosis that would later take her life. The actress and the count married in secret in 1801; she died two years later, shortly after giving birth to their son. In his summer serf theater in Arkhangelskoye, Prince Nikolai Yusupov also favored weekly opera performances as well as dance shows with rich stage decorations. The well-preserved stage decorations are by the Venetian artist Pietrodi Gonzaga.
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