Only genuine things

Dive into past age in historic centre of capital
By Irina Melova

The Provincial Minsk: Noble Way of Life exhibition has opened in an elegant 18th century building — the Art Gallery of People’s Artist of the BSSR and USSR Mikhail Savitsky. Vitaly Zhukov has managed to reconstruct those days for the first time, introducing a unique private collection of 120 original works by European and Russian masters. No archival data exists, so he has relied on his perception and knowledge of imagery.

The history of the building is interesting too, dating from 1775, when it belonged to Count Michal Przezdziecki — a Polish aristocrat. It was passed to a pharmacist called Stankevich, and then a philanthropist: Yuri Kobylinsky. The fourth owner of the estate was Leopold Delpatse and, after the revolution of 1917, administrative services were located inside, including military enlistment. Today, it houses a museum open to the public.

Provincial Minsk: Noble Way of Life is on show in the largest hall, with the walls painted a coral colour (in vogue in the 19th century and denoting a worldly boudoir atmosphere). Furniture, china, crystal, bronze, furnishings and household goods are displayed, showing the taste and spirit of former owners. The pride of the collection is furniture made by the Gambs brother in St. Petersburg, in the mid-19th century (they made furniture even for the Russian tsars). Currently, samples are on display in the Hermitage.

Preparing for the exhibition in Minsk, an old rug was found, so dirty that its design was a mystery. However, it turned out to be a masterpiece by Italian Guido Reni: The Chariot of Aurora, created in 1614.

It is interesting to know how the nobility entertained their friends in ancient times. We can imagine chatting in the salon, with music and poetry performed and everything in harmony. The one thing missing from the exhibition room is portraits of the owners. Alas, none exist of the Delpatse couple. “Only genuine things are on show and, since we lack genuine portraits, those places are blank,” notes Mr. Zhukov.
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