New finds: Hidden paintings at VDNKh

New finds: Hidden paintings at VDNKh
Murals were covered by paper and plywood sheet. They will be restored.

The interior restoration in the Geology and Physics pavilions at the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh) has uncovered fragments of wall paintings. The paintings had long been hidden from public view under a paper and plywood sheet. Specialists will study, restore and preserve the paintings.

“Soon, the art and restoration commission will identify the materials, the period, and the painting technique. After the pavilions are restored, all these terrific pictures will be open to the public nearly in their original state,” commented Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov.

The central hall of pavilion No. 5, Physics, turned out to have two murals by unknown artists. The walls are partially covered by paintings painted in the grisaille technique and completely coated with stencil paintings. They feature characteristic Latvian motifs, clover leaves, ribbons and ears recurring in moulded decor elements which have either been preserved or are being restored.

“Interestingly, the discovery has prompted us to upgrade the interior design concept that by then had acquired a definite shape and was quite common. Restorers used lots of archive documents and photos, but none of these had anything to do with the concept,” Yemelyanov noted.

The discovery at pavilion No. 31, Geology, was simplified contour paintings on a background of gold leaf and portraying scenes on geology – a geologists’ camp, a helicopter with mountains in the backdrop, a sea and an oil platform, a working excavator, a railway bridge and plants.

“As yet, the specialists have found fragments only on three of the six columns. Fortunately, they are in a very good condition. We are looking forward to any new discoveries at VDNKh that will help retrieve the exhibition centre’s historical appearance in the smallest detail,” Yemelyanov said.

In May 2017, workers at the Geology pavilion came across elements of moulded décor and the inscription “Bast and Wool Industry” over the entrance. That summer, they also discovered some of the ore and mineral samples that had been considered lost.   

The Geology pavilion appeared in 1954 and was based on a project by architect Leonid Pavlov on the site of the wooden pavilion Flax, Cannabis and New Bast Plants that was built in 1937. This is a good example of the Italian classics whose techniques were popular at that time. Pavlov achieved light and form through this Palladian composition, with the appropriate choice of scale, proportion and the use of different orders.

The Physics pavilion (formerly known as Latvian SSR pavilion) was also built in 1954. It is located at the back of the public garden of the Baltic republics and is the centerpiece of the garden’s composition. The pavilion’s importance is highlighted by a portico with bright majolica inserts. The corners of the portico are decorated with bronze gilded ridges shaped like ship bows that used to flank a massive shield with the emblem of the Latvian SSR. The window openings of the façade wall feature stained glass panels portraying Latvian cities and agricultural scenes set off by ornamentation. Magnificent carved wooden front doors display large bronze-mounted gold-coloured amber.

Both pavilions are federal cultural heritage landmarks.