Was there a “Ukrainian Louvre”? What masterpieces were stored in the palaces on the territory of Ukraine and why is it important

Was there a “Ukrainian Louvre”?  What masterpieces were stored in the palaces on the territory of Ukraine and why is it important


Masterpieces of the Renaissance, historical portraits, in particular of the Ukrainian elite and hetmans, large libraries and musical ensembles – from luxurious buildings, where art developed and life was raging, in some places only the walls remained. Castles and palaces scattered across the territory of present-day Ukraine were powerful cultural centers for their regions some 300 years ago. Today, we perceive their small remains as silent and often abandoned architectural monuments in picturesque Ukrainian landscapes, but they had a significant impact on the development of the surrounding regions.

Maxim Butchenko special for UP. Culture tells about how the interiors of Ukrainian palaces could look and how the influence of these cultural centers can be revived today.

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The small village of Rozdil, located in the Lviv region, lost the status of a city in 1940. But there is still a building here, thanks to which the fame of the entire region thundered about it – the Zhevusky-Liantskoronskyi Palace.

On the architect’s computer Ivan Shchurk there is a separate folder where he keeps special photos – works of art from Ukrainian palaces. Moreover, sometimes these collections were really impressive, and the owners were among the top three collectors in Europe.

In particular, a lot of masterpieces were kept in the Zhevuskyi palace under the Zhevusky family, who had Ukrainian roots. Probably, among them were two paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn: “Girl in a frame” and “Jewish Bride”. As Shchurko says, there were a lot of such iconic things in the collections of the nobility at that time. However, works of art also had historical significance.

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Girl in a Frame”

For example, under the Zhevuskys, a portrait was kept in the palace in Rozdol Anna Dolska, which was the sympathy of the hero of the Battle of Vienna, Mykhailo Florian Zhevuskyi. But in Ukraine, Anna is not known for this. Princess Dolska was the godmother and the last sympathy of the hetman Ivan Mazepa. It was through her that he maintained contact with the Swedish king Karl XII and his Polish counterpart, the king Stanislav Leshchynskyi.

Mazepa met Princess Dolska in 1705, while staying in Bila Krynytsia, then became the godfather of her grandson, apparently lending her a considerable amount of money. Some historians believe that there was an affair between them.

It is reliably known that Dolska persuaded the hetman to leave Tsar Peter and become an ally of the Polish king Leszczynski, who was then supported by King Charles XII. Unfortunately, the picture of Dolska from the Rozdilsky Palace has been lost.

Decoration of the Palace in Rozdol (Zhevusky-Liantskoronsky Palace)

However, there are many examples of how ancient collections of family estates influenced the culture of modern Ukraine. Yes, nobleman Joseph Kalasantii Didushytskyi founded a library in Potorytsia (which is also now Lviv Oblast). Over time, it grew to 50,000 books and manuscripts.

After the arrival of Soviet power, part of the library was moved to Wrocław, the rest was dispersed among different departments. The State Natural History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine was created on the basis of the collection of Volodymyr Didushytskyi.

Shchurko says that the absolute majority of palaces had collections of works of art. Collecting art in the current understanding of this concept began to take shape sometime in the second half of the 19th century. Usually, it started with family artifacts – the oldest family documents that confirmed the aristocratic, noble origin or ancient roots of the family. Books followed, because in the 17th–18th centuries, printed publications were a scarce commodity. Later, wealthy owners began to collect furniture and dishes. But gradually came the realization that, in addition to the utilitarian function, household items also have a certain aesthetic, artistic, and historical value.

“In addition, portraits of ancestors and family members were painted by famous, talented artists. Often these were paintings that illustrated vivid facts from the biography of ancestors, for example, participation in wars or battles, other important historical events.”– says Shchurko.

Ivan Shchurko

On the territory of Ukraine there were about a thousand estates where collections of works of art were kept. Philip Gavrylenko, head of the “Castles and Fortresses of Ukraine” project, says that over time castles lost their need for defensive functions and began to be used as residences. At the same time, wealthy owners built new palaces.

“You can look at the Pidhoretskyi Castle, the owner of which was the crown hetman Stanislav Konetspolskyi. Therefore, there were many military trophies there, even Turkish tents and weapons. And if the owner was a poet or a connoisseur of antiques, then he had a suitable collection.”– says Gavrylenko.

Dmytro Antonyuk, the author of books about castles in Ukraine, provides a large list of residences where significant art collections were collected. In particular, the palace in Vyshnivka of the Vyshnivetskyi princes, in the Ternopil region, was famous for its collection. There were huge collections of paintings from Western Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries, antique furniture, Dutch tiles, literature – almost 21 thousand volumes, weapons, dishes.

Dmytro Antonyuk

After the death of the last man in the Vishnivets family, the palace in Vyshnivets was passed down through the female line to the Mnishek family. Under their leadership, the palace brightened, but the last owner of this estate, Andrzej Mniszek, took most of the collection to Paris, where it was later sold. In part, some decorations of the palace ended up in Ukrainian museums, for example, in the Historical Museum in Lviv.

Vyshnivetsky Palace

“Honoré de Balzac, who visited Vyšnivets in 1848, called the palace in Vyshnivets and the park “little Versailles”. During the First World War, the palace was damaged, later restoration took place, but its interior decoration was not restored.” – says Antoniuk. He notes that only the Zhevusky-Liantskoronsky palace in Rozdol could compete with the palace in Vyshnivtsi.

Decoration of the Vyshnievetskyi Palace

Historian Oksana Lobko, who researches the families of the Polish nobility, says that works of art gradually accumulated in the palaces. For example, during the reconstruction of the palace in Rozdol by Mykhailo Józef Zhevusky in the early 1700s, huge (185 cm x 86 cm) ceremonial portraits of family representatives were already stored there. Among them, the portraits of the Pereyaslav mayor Ivan Zhevuskyi (Revukha), other family members and relatives are especially expressive. All of them were made in the 17th century. from nature in the traditions of the pre-Renaissance portrait.

There was also a lot of painting in the Zhevusky building in Lviv on Rynok Square. Part of the painting, such as the wonderful portraits of the sisters Anna and Antonina Zhevusky from Rozdol, by the artist Marcello Baccarelli (1731 – 1818) is now part of the collection of the Zhytomyr Local History Museum.

“Such collections initially had a biographical component, but then often turned into private collections of a large number of works of art”– explains Lobko.

Later, when the estate passed to the Liantskoronskyi family, Karol Liantskoronskyi took up the work of the collector. His collection was divided between his own estates in Vienna and Rozdol. Later, some of the things were stored in Krakow.

Moreover, the number of items was so large that the count was in third place among collectors in Europe at that time. In 1903, a Polish culturologist Stefan Krzyvozhevskyi noted that the content and size of the Liantskoronskyi collection could be compared with the well-known British Museum at the beginning of the 20th century.

The count accumulated more than 300 paintings by Italian artists of the 15th century, such as the works of Simone Martini (c. 1284-1344), Masaccio (1401-1428), Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Bonifacio de Pitati (1553) and even Ivan Aivazovsky. Karol Liantskoronsky traveled a lot, brought antiques from the East, Asia and Japan.

Veronese, “Rest during the flight to Egypt”

Various sculptures were placed in the park in Rozdol. In particular, the figure “Eros with a dolphin” is a work of the Renaissance Florentine master Andrea del Verocchio (1435-1488), a teacher of Leonardo da Vinci. Or a marble figure of Mars of the 2nd century, antique sculptures of a woman with a sacrificial bowl, a young man with a book (2nd century BC), a portrait of an unknown Roman woman.

Later, part of the collection was taken to Vienna. What remained was taken by the Soviet authorities to the Russian Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The remains of the collection can be seen in the Drohobych Museum, the Lviv Gallery named after Voznytskyi, and the Archaeological Museum in Odesa.

The number of such products was large, but they did not always meet the fate of museums. Antoniuk cites an interesting story as an example, which is connected with the paintings of the palace of Voronovitsa near Vinnytsia. In the walls of the palace, one of the owners from the Groholsky family decided to wall up several paintings of the 17th century, which his late brother brought from a trip to Italy.

“This brother died, and he was left with two minor sons and, as an inheritance from his father, here is this collection of paintings. And his envious brother, who was the guardian of these heavens, did not think of anything better than to wall these canvases in the walls of the palace until when his nephews will become adults. Well, when this hiding place was opened, the canvases were damaged by fungus and could no longer be restored. This is how the real treasures were lost.”– says Antonyuk.

He continues: Many wealthy aristocratic families collected ancient coins and medals and had numismatic cabinets. For example, Tadeusz Chatsky, who had palaces in Brusylov and Volyn, had such an office.

“Unfortunately, these palaces have not reached us, although there is a hypothesis that the palace in Brusylov was completely rebuilt and now it houses a kindergarten. So Chatsky gave his numismatic office and mineralogical office as a gift to the Kremenets Lyceum, which he founded. After the disbandment of the Lyceum in Kremenets, these things went to the newly founded University in Kyiv named after Volodymyr – now Shevchenko University”– says Antoniuk.

Decoration of the Palace in Rozdol (Zhevusky-Liantskoronsky Palace)

Oksana Lobko has been researching the history of the Potocki collection from Tulchyn for many years. At one time, she fascinated the visitors of the palace. Due to numerous descendants, the collection was scattered, some things were stolen by employees and managers of the estate. Later, part of this collection became the basis for the modern Lviv Historical Museum, when it was brought from Sitkivtsi, in Vinnytsia.

“But it is still important for researchers to create a complete list of the collection, because this is our history, our memory”– says Lobko.

According to the architect Shchurk, examples of such collections had a significant impact on the Ukrainian cultural environment. First of all, the documents that were kept in the palaces: ancient manuscripts, letters, deeds – related not only to the family, but also to the history of the lands. This gave an understanding of historical processes on the territory of Ukraine. Secondly, the current national-level Ukrainian libraries and modern museum galleries were formed on the basis of collections of noble collectors.

“Thirdly, such collections of palaces also make us realize that we have a rich history that is underestimated from a cultural point of view. People do not know much about what influenced what and whether we have something to be proud of, relatively speaking. And we have a multi-layered history – interesting, diverse. Realizing this gives an understanding that Ukrainians had a bright European past. And there will definitely be a European future.”Shchurko concludes.

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