Lencek L. M. The Venetian Mirror: Pavel Pavlovich Muratov’s “Obrazy Italii” (1924) and the Literature of Art
(Reed College, Portland, Oregon, USA)
Abstract ♦ Criticism has not sufficiently investigated the complex aesthetic program of the three-volume “Obrazy Italii” (1911–1924) of Pavel Pavlovich Muratov (1881–1950), art historian, critic, belle-lettrist, and an exemplary type of the “renaissance man” of Russian modernism.
In its combination of art criticism, personal anecdote, biographical sketch, lyrical digression, philosophical speculation, and history, Muratov’s text exemplifies the genre of the literature of art modeled on John Ruskin’s three-volume “Stones of Venice” (1851–1853), and informed by his readings — and translations into Russian — of, most notably, Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, and Bernard Berenson.
Composed over a thirteen-year period marked by dramatic ruptures in the historical and cultural continuity of Europe and Russia, as well as dislocations in the author’s life, Muratov’s text may be read as an evocation of a humanist aesthetic utopia that stands as an alternative to the fractured temporality and fractured identity of his own historical moment. This paper argues that Muratov finds a relief from his anxiety over the dislocations of the present historical moment by modeling a practice of reading the past through its artistic and architectural monuments.
This practice is allegorized in the 1922 short story “Venetian Mirror” ("Venetsianskoe zerkalo”), which, it is proposed, projects the Italy of the Renaissance as an alternative site for a Russian cultural identity that, in Muratov's view, has been vitiated and voided by World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution.
Keywords: Pavel Pavlovich Muratov, “Obrazy Italii”, “Images of Italy”, “Venetian Mirror,” Venice, Silver Age, Russian aestheticism, the image of Italy in Russian modernism, literature of art, aesthetic essay, aesthetic travelogue, ekphrasis, palimpsest.
Lencek Lena M., Professor of Russian and Humanities, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, USA. Postal Address: Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR 97210, USA. Tel.: + 1 (503) 517-7309. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Citation: Lencek, L. M. (2015) The Venetian Mirror: Pavel Pavlovich Muratov’s “Obrazy Italii” (1924) and the Literature of Art. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 1, pp. 344–358.