Architectural Sketches for Saint Petersburg from the Collection of the Kunstbibliothek on Display in the Tchoban Foundation

03.03.2020

Following a series of exhibitions of modern and contemporary works, the Tchoban Foundation – Museum for Architectural Drawing is once again turning its attention to historical sketches, presenting a cooperation project with the Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, from 7 March to 7 June 2020. The show focuses on architectural depictions of the city of Saint Petersburg, the majority of which were made by the draughtsman and architect Jean-François Thomas de Thomon (1760–1813).

Jean-François Thomas de Thomon (1760–1813) is one of the best-known French architects of Neoclassicism. Blessed with drawing talent and endowed with the requisite ambition, he left the turbulence of revolutionary France for far-away Russia and commenced a successful career in its capital city of Saint Petersburg, where he created his most celebrated works. Thomon possessed the social skills required to gain access to the upper echelons of aristocratic Russia, including the court of the Tsar, and thus to important and well-paid commissions. His most famous projects include the Big Stone Theatre (Bolshoi Theatre) and the design of the eastern tip of Vasilyevsky Island with the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange.

Architecture in Saint Petersburg Around 1800

Founded in 1703, around the turn of the 19th century, Saint Petersburg was undergoing intensive development, and was intended to be both the ‘window to Europe’ and to look ‘European’ in its architectural design, which is why numerous foreign architects such as Domenico Trezzini, Andreas Schlueter, Charles Cameron, Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, Giacomo Quarenghi and many others were active in the city on the Neva from the outset. At the time that Thomon was working in Saint Petersburg, the imperial Neoclassical style, often referred to in art history as ‘Empire’, and in Russia as ‘Alexandrian Classicism’ (after the reign of Emperor Alexander I), had come into vogue in Europe. Since Thomon had studied at the Académie royale d'architecture in Paris and spent several years in Italy studying classical models, he not only had the required qualifications as an architect but was also, with his skills and knowledge of Neoclassicism, above all the right man in the right place at the right time. He was given a teaching position at the Academy of the Arts in Saint Petersburg and soon made a name for himself not only as an architect but also as a brilliant draughtsman.

The Drawings in the Exhibition

It is very likely that the exhibited drawings by Thomon from the Kunstbibliothek’s collection were a display album assembled by the architect for a nobleman, possibly a member of the Tsar’s family. It consists of a compilation of grand public buildings, including several military buildings (such as barracks, riding halls and officers’ houses), hospitals, and the Kazan Cathedral. The exhibition is thus an exquisite selection of drawings of important buildings in Saint Petersburg, not only by Thomon himself but also by colleagues from his circle, such as Giacomo Quarenghi (1744–1817), Andrei Voronikhin (1759–1814) and Luigi Rusca (1758-1822), which Thomon copied, miniaturised and collated. Since some of the plans and drawings by the original draughtsmen are no longer preserved, this album is valuable as an important source of architectural history as well as for its artistic quality.

In addition to Thomas de Thomon’s drawings, the exhibition shows works by his important rival, Giacomo Quarenghi, and a work by Philipp Elsson (1793–1867) that is reminiscent of Thomon’s design for the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange.

The exhibition was made possible by loans from the Kunstbibliothek, and will be accompanied by a catalogue.

Tchoban Foundation – Museum of Architectural Drawing

Christinenstraße 18a
10119 Berlin

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday 2 to 7 pm
Saturday and Sunday 1 to 5 pm

Tchoban Foundation – Museum of Architectural Drawing

Founded in 2009 by Sergei Tchoban, a passionate draughtsman and collector of architectural drawings, the Tchoban Foundation and its considerable collection serves as a resource for research into the history and nature of architectural drawing. In addition, an extensive reference library with a focus on architectural drawings offers specialists and interested visitors a place to conduct their studies. The prime goal of the foundation is to bring the imaginative and emotionally charged worlds of architectural drawing in the digital age closer to the general public through exhibitions.