Volume 3. part 2. The state Russian museum
In 1940, the State Russian Museum formed a traveling exhibition, "Main periods of Russian paintings”, which included 183 works (144 - paintings and 39 - graphics) from the main collection of the museum fund. At the begiining of the summer of 1940 the exhibition was sent to the road “Nalchik - Kerch”, accompanied by representatives of the museum - the director of a traveling exhibition and research assistant-guide (according to the act of a temporary issuing № 341 from 11.06.1940).
A year later - in early June 1941 - the exhibition visited a number of cities in North Caucus, in the Donbass and in the Crimea. It was transferred to temporary storage to Alupkinsky Museum (the act of transfer №394 dated 06/06/1941) and was opened there for the audience. Then the Great Patriotic War began.
To evacuate the artistic values was too late. The exhibition was closed, the exhibits were piled into boxes and packed for storage in the Alupkinskoye palace. During the first days of the occupation of the Crimea the palace was looted. The representatives of the Crimean branch of Staff of Rosenberg, who led the massive export of cultural treasures from the occupied territories, prepared to send the remainder of the collections of Alupka palace to Germany. Most of the exported products disappeared.
In accordance with the decree of the Art Committee of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR (№ 317-328 dated 23/8/1944) about the representation of "an inventory of museum treasures damaged, dead and removed by the invaders" the State Russian Museum made the "Expert opinion on the cost of exhibits of the State Russian Museum damaged because of military actions." The list includes all the one hundred eighty-three exhibits from the traveling exhibition "The main periods in the development of Russian painting."
After the liberation of the Crimea from Nazi occupation they began searching for works that had been the part of a traveling exhibition of the State Russian Museum. From a letter to the Director of Alupka Palace-Museum dated 08/21/1944 they said that after the liberation of the Crimea it had been discovered only twenty-five works from the collection of the traveling exhibition. The remaining one hundred fifty-eight exhibits were considered "disappeared" and were included to the act of the damage made by the German occupation.
In the September of 1944 a special commission was made that composed of the Director of Alupka Palace Museum A. Rotenberg, the deputy of the director Klimenko, the chief curator of the museum Vilchevskaya and the Professor of the Moscow State University S. M. Rosenthal and the candidate of art criticism sciences A.N. Luzhetskaya sent by the Office of People's Commissars of the RSFSR. This commission introduced the act number b/n dated 9/27/1944. In this act 155 works from the collections of the State Russian Museum recorded as lost (at that time the museum wasn’t able to send a staff member from Leningrad to the Crimea).
In November 1948 the State Russian Museum received the notice from the Committee of Cultural and educational institutions about the admission to the Crimean Regional Department of cultural information ten works from the traveling exhibition "The main periods in the development of Russian paintings” found in German. These works were temporarily left for the storage in the Crimea.
In 1948, thirty-five works from the traveling exhibition "The main periods in the development of Russian painting" were returned from the Central storages of museum collections of the suburban palaces of Leningrad to the State Russian Museum because of the act of the readmission № 244 dated 05.11.1948. They were received from the Department of restitution of Berlin.
In 1951 two items from the works exported during the Great Patriotic War to Germany from Alupka Palace Museum were returned from the State Tretyakov Gallery, caused by the order of the Committee on the Arts Council of Ministers of the USSR (№ SP-953/32 dated 06.09.1951) (acts of readmission from 24.11.1951 № 341 and № 341-a from 12/10/1951). During the correspondence between the State Russian Museum, Simferopol Art Gallery and the Committee of the cultural and educational institutions under the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR, it was established that the Crimean Regional Department of cultural information gave ten (actually - nine) pieces of the traveling exhibition "The main periods in the development of Russian painting” from the Crimean regional museum to the Simferopol Art Gallery.
Five of them were submitted for the permanent storage in the Simferopol Art Gallery (orders of the Committee of Arts under the Council of Ministers of the USSR № 575 of 22.05.51, № 63 dated 01.19.1953, the act of gratuitous issue № 1028 dated 26.12.1951). One piece - by Ilya Repin “ the Portrait of Disterlo "(Sketch for the painting "The meeting of the State Council") - was returned to Leningrad. This act was based on the order of the Committee on the Arts Council of Ministers of the USSR (№ 63 dated 19.01.1953). Three works - "Ah, I'm unhappy..." by Pavel Fedotov, "What, so soon..." by Pavel Fedotov, "The groom, buying a ring" by Ivanov, - were returned later to the State Russian Museum (the act of readmission № 478 dated 25.05.1955).
One piece - "View of the village Mishketka" by Ivanov, - actually was not transferred to the Simferopol Art Gallery, and after a long search it was discovered in the room of the art-restoration workshop of the Crimean regional museum. It was returned to the State Russian Museum of the Crimean regional museum (the act of readmission № 381 dated 07/03/1953).
In mid-1960. Some information of the fate of eleven works from the traveling exhibition "The main periods in the development of Russian painting" was found. According to the letters of the Alupka Palace Museum (№ 54 dated 20.01.1966, № 311 dated 19.08.80, № 99 dated 11.04.1985) during the formation of the Alupka Palace Museum in 1956 among the products, received from the state cottage ( placed after the Great Patriotic War in Alupkinskoye Palace), there were eleven items from the collections of the State Russian Museum. They were introduced into the inventory of the Alupka museum, as at the time of admission their belonging to another museum wasn’t known. At the request of the State Russian Museum (№ 1342/1-3 dated 06/21/1985) all these works were returned to its collections (the act of readmission № 2659 dated 23.04.1986).
In the 1970-1980-ies the work for returning lost items continued. The State Russian Museum repeatedly appealed to the Yalta territorial management of resorts of the trade union asking for the return of paintings by Shchedrin "The view of the vicinity of Naples” and in Simferopol Art Museum of the request for the return of paintings by Kuindzhi "Night on the Dnieper”, which had been the part of the traveling exhibition "The main periods of the development of Russian painting." Unfortunately, these works have not been returned to its rightful owner.
In 1998, thanks to the efforts of the Department of the Conservation of Cultural Property of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation as a result of measures taken, "The Portrait of Peter Basin" by Kiprensky was returned to Russia, The story of his return is extremely interesting. In 1955 the Austrian Parliament gave to the Union of Jewish Communities in Austria, the values stored in a medieval monastery Mauerbach near Vienna since the II World War. It was believed that all the works of art collected in this monastery had been confiscated by the Nazis from Jews. Therefore, more than one thousand antiques, whose owners were unknown, were exhibited on the big charity auction by the Union of Jewish Communities in Austria together with the largest auction house Christie's in October in 1996. Among the lots there was "Portrait of Peter Vasilyevich Basin” listed at the number 385.
The information about the portrait was carefully checked by experts of the Department of Conservation of Cultural Property of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, all the necessary legal documents proving ownership of Russia's masterpiece O.A. Kiprensky were prepared In November 1997, the Russian side informed the auction house Christie's on the fate of the portrait and asked for the assistance in acquiring from the new owner. It appeared to be an American citizen Ronald S. Lauder - a well-known collector, an enthusiast of the Russian culture and art. Learning the history of painting, Mr. Lauder decided to give it to Russia. During the 100-year anniversary of the State Russian Museum "Portrait of Peter Basin" by Kiprensky was brought from America to St. Petersburg and - after 58 years! – this painting took its place in the museum exhibition.
Russian Museum was able to return a few more pictures, presented in a traveling exhibition of 1940-1941. These are - "Portrait of Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna” by the artist Bogaevsky, “Achilles near the body of Patroclus" by the artist Kovrigin, "A group of children", "The Icebreaker Yermak," A Girl with a pot of roses " by Tropinin. The last picture is in Moscow in the exhibition "Museum of Tropinin and artists of his circle."
Today, from one hundred and eighty-three exhibits that had been the part of a traveling exhibition of 1940-1941 "The main periods in the development of Russian painting", fifty-nine works were returned to the permanent storage at the State Russian Museum. The search continues. We hope that its documentary chronicles will be replenished with new reports about the return of museum items lost in the Great Patriotic War.
S.A. Yanchenko, the head of the department of the exhibits of the State Russian Museum
S.D. Nekrasova, the head of the section of Museums of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation