Two elements: Vera Mukhina’s Water and Earth statues at Luzhniki restored

Two elements: Vera Mukhina’s Water and Earth statues at Luzhniki restored
Vera Mukhina, Nina Zelenskaya, Zinaida Ivanova, Alexander Sergeyev (sculptors), Igor Rozhin (architect). The allegorical sculpture Earth. 1957. Bronze
In 1957, students of the outstanding Soviet sculptor used her sketches of the statues to complete them after her death. The statues adorn Luzhnetskaya Embankment near the entrance to Festivalnaya Square.

The allegorical sculptures – Water (also known as The Gifts of Water or The Sea) and Earth (The Gifts of Earth) – designed by Soviet sculptor and People’s Artist of the USSR Vera Mukhina have been fully restored.

The statues were sculpted after Mukhina’s death by her students Nina Zelenskaya and Zinaida Ivanova and architect Igor Rozhin in 1957 and erected at the Luzhniki sports complex in the middle of the 1960s.

Earth and Water, opposite each other, adorn the entrance to Festivalnaya Square from Luzhnetskaya Embankment. A nude girl sitting with a half-bent basket of fruits supported by her right hand, a fruit in her left hand and a scarf over her left shoulder symbolises Earth. The Water statue depicts a nude lad, his right hand tightly gripping a large catfish by its fin, his left hand seizing its tail, and a large crab under his right foot. The statues are cast from a zinc-aluminium-copper alloy. The pedestals are from dark-grey granite slabs.

“The statues last underwent comprehensive restoration in 2010. Over the past eight years, cracks, deformities and even fractures have appeared on the metal surface. In other words, the sculptures were in a deplorable condition. The point is that the zinc alloy, from which the statues were cast, is quite fragile and is rarely used in monumental sculpture. Moreover, the statues are always in the open air and therefore subject to the negative impact of the environment. In order to preserve them in a pristine condition, regular maintenance and restoration work is needed,” Alexei Yemelyanov, head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, said.

As the allegorical statues Earth and Water are cultural heritage sites of federal significance, the project was coordinated with the Department of Cultural Heritage and controlled by its specialists.

The restoration took around four months to complete. As the statues were not dismantled, all work had to be carried out right on Luzhnetskaya Embankment. The sculptures’ framing was reinforced and all fractures, cracks and deformities on the metal surface were done away with. The missing parts of the compositions were cast anew and reinstalled. The foundation beneath the granite slabs was also strengthened. The slabs were cleaned from grime and polished plus the joints were cemented with special substance. Finally, the pedestals were covered with special protective coating against weather and rain.

Vera Mukhina is a Russian and Soviet monumental sculptor. She studied in Moscow and Paris. Between 1935-1937, she created her famous Worker and the Collective Farm Woman monument that crowned the Soviet pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris. Architect Boris Iofan designed a pedestal for the giant sculpture.

Mukhina’s other best-known works are Bread (1939) and Science (1950-1952). The latter is near the Moscow State University. She was also one of the sculptors of the statue of writer Maxim Gorky, which was erected on Tverskaya Zastava Square near the Belorussky Railway Station in 1951 and stood there until 2005 when the square was closed for reconstruction and the statue was moved to the Muzeon Park of Arts where it remained for 12 years. Last August, the newly-restored statue returned to its former home on Tverskaya Zastava.