In the 18th century, Prince Nikolai Golitsyn commissioned French architects to craft an elaborate palace and grounds on the outskirts of Moscow. The Arkhangelskoye country estate was finished in 1810, after it was purchased, while under construction, by Prince Nikolai Yusupov (1751-1831), a politician and important art collector. A product of the Enlightenment, Yusupov altered the palace to better display his 16,000-volume library and impressive collection of paintings, which included works by Tiepolo, Boucher, and van Dyke. Hubert Robert, an artist best known for his depictions of ruins, adorned the walls of several rooms with monumental painted landscapes. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Arkhangelskoye left the hands of the Yusopov family and became a museum and theater that attracted thousands of visitors annually. The palace was closed for repairs in the mid-1980s but these supposed improvements never materialized, leaving the house and its contents in a state of advancing decay.
2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch
In 1996, Arkhangelskoye was given over to the care of Russia’s Ministry of Culture, which was unable to perform necessary repairs without outside assistance. Several areas of the palace were in danger of collapse, including the theater’s roof and main staircase. The walls and decoration of the interiors were also in poor condition due to the frigid temperatures in the unheated house. World Monuments Fund placed Arkhangelskoye State Museum on the Watch in 2000 and 2002, hoping to raise support for a complete restoration. By the time of the second Watch listing, Moscow officials and representatives of the museum had drafted a thorough conservation plan; they had begun work on the exterior of the building and the surrounding gardens, but the interiors had not been touched. WMF secured a number of grants for the refurbishment of the private theater and the Hubert Robert rooms. During the project, Robert’s paintings were preserved, the ceilings and balconies were repaired, and the parquet floors and five fireplaces were restored.
The scenic grounds of Arkhangelskoye hold the original palace, a French sculpture garden with pieces from the 18th-20th centuries, a 17th century church, the 1910 Yusopov mausoleum, and a private theater. The theater still possesses four sets and the curtains designed by Pietro Gonzago, a preeminent Italian architect of the 19th century who is most famous for the Scala sets in Milan. Indeed, much of the original structure, space, and décor of the palace survives to this day, making it a rare historical and aesthetic treasure. When the restoration was completed, Arkhangelskoye State Museum opened once more to the public. In addition to displaying the vast collections of art and books, the museum hosts numerous dramatic performances and an annual music festival in the summer.