Moscow during the Reigns of Catherine II and Paul I in the Paintings of Gérard de la Barthe

13.11.2017

Gérard de la Barthe, French painter and watercolorist, worked in Russia between 1787 and 1810. In the late 1780s, de la Barthe painted views of Tsarskoye Selo, and in the second half of the 1790s, he created a series of watercolors and paintings depicting views of Moscow and its suburbs that became widely popular due to etched reproductions of them.

Catherine II used to admit that she had never liked Moscow. Moscow repelled her with its medieval gracelessness and dilapidation, luxury and idleness, its enormous size, vast squares, the abundance of paupers, thieves, and useless domestic servants. She commissioned a series of painting, wishing to see Moscow captured in its originality and contrast of its everyday life. That is why she chose de la Barthe, a talented painter of the vernacular city life.

Unlike Catherine, Paul I did like Moscow. He felt more welcome there than in St. Petersburg. Paul commissioned de la Barthe to paint 6 canvases: two panoramas of Moscow and four paintings connected with the emperor’s trips around Moscow suburbs.

In the view of De la Barthe, Moscow possesses plenty of vast open spaces that are scarce in European cities. These spaces are full of different city types.
The exhibition at the St Michael’s Castle will include 15 paintings from the Moscow series by Gérard de la Barthe, accessioned into the Museum’s collection in 1931 from the Alexandrovsky Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and never yet exhibited in its entirety. The display will also include views of Moscow painted around the same time by I. V. Moshkov (1778–1845) and etchings depicting the 1812 Fire of Moscow, the landscape backgrounds of which are based on de la Barthe’s vedute.