Treasures of the “chameleon” house: what is the value of Korobkova's mansion

Treasures of the “chameleon” house: what is the value of Korobkova's mansion
Photo by Maxim Denisov,
The mansion of O.P.  Korobkova is located at Pyatnitskaya street. The building’s history counts one and a half centuries. Its reconstruction in 1894 was carried out by famous architect Lev Kekushev. The building was innovative and striking for its time.

Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage approved the subject of protection for O. P. Korobkova's mansion . The building located at 33–35, Pyatnitskaya street, building 1, has the status of a cultural heritage site of federal significance. The mansion is an example of the eclectic architectural style with pronounced baroque motives. A subject of protection is a document that lists all the characteristics of the building’s historical appearance, elements of architectural and cultural value. They are to be preserved. Any restorations can only be carried out taking into account the confirmed subject of protection according to the project agreed by Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage and under supervision of the Department specialists.

“Korobkova's mansion is a real decoration of Pyatnitskaya street and across the entire Zamoskvorechye district. The house catches immediate attention with a purple color, unusual for the 19th century buildings. This is exactly the shade that this building walls had originally. Experts found it 2013 when they carried out research prior to restoration. 10 layers of paint was removed while clearing the facade to find the original. It is a “chameleon” color that changes from lilac to purple depending on weather and lighting. The building and archival materials were carefully studied to develop the subject of protection. The experts listed all the important elements of the building. These data formed the basis for the subject of protection”, said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. 

The architectural town planning characteristics of the building, its appearance (asymmetric silhouette, bay window, corner decorative tower with a figured roof and lattice), all structures, original materials and height marks of the roof level were included in the subject of protection.

The list also comprises a compositional solution and architectural and artistic design of facades, including their lilac color, stucco and sculptural decor, columns, pilasters, rods, interfloor and crowning cornices, window frames, sandriks (architectural elements, horizontal shelves above the window or door frame opening), rustication (masonry of large stones shaped as tetrahedral pyramids, forming a play of light and shade on the facade of the building).

The planning and decoration of the mansion's interiors, the front stone staircase with a forged metal fence and a wooden handrail, a stone service staircase with a wooden handrail, wooden window frames and doors were considered valuable.

The experts made special emphasis on the elements of the premises decor: a wooden vestibule of the main entrance, a built-in wardrobe, ceiling stucco molding, covings and stretched cornices, stucco rosettes, rustication and plastering of walls to look like panels, wooden wall panels, stained-glass windows, door portals, wooden coffered ceiling of the dining room, parquet and floor from metlakh tiles, marble fireplace with mirror, chandeliers and much more.

An asymmetrical mansion with a corner tower and a scaly domed roof was built in 1866. And 30 years later, famous architect Lev Kekushev reconstructed the building for merchant Trifon Ivanovich Korobkov and his wife Olga Petrovna (she inherited the mansion after her husband died). The facades were renewed and a large corner hall with access to the winter garden, as well as a service wing and a fence were added.

Five years later the house was rebuilt again. The work was supervised by Sergei Shutsman, Lev Kekushev's longtime co-author. Therefore, the facades decoration and all of Kekushev's ideas were preserved.

Merchant Trifon Korobkov owned paper production facilities and was a representative of Moscow financial and stock exchange circles. He and his wife raised two children: son Sergei and daughter Olga.

Korobkov was a fan of art and imitated patrons of art Pavel Tretyakov, Savva Morozov and Savva Mamontov. He was interested in painting, theater, literature and hosted famous artists and writers. For instance, the portrait of Olga Petrovna, the house owner, was painted by artist Alexander Gerasimov. Vladimir Gilyarovsky introduced him to the Korobkov family.

The portrait was painted by a special order, it was highly valued and very rarely exhibited. Gerasimov also created two paintings — “Korobkovo Estate” and “Forest Path” — in the Korobkovs' country estate where he often stayed in summer. Now the three paintings are exhibited in the house-museum of A.M.  Gerasimov.

The merchant's children were also interested in arts: his son was doing painting, and his daughter was fond of theater.

In 1935-1936, President of the USSR Academy of Sciences Alexander Karpinsky spent his last years in the mansion at Pyatnitskaya street, and his successor, Academician Vladimir Komarov, lived there in 1936-1945.

The mansion was returned to its historic lilac decoration during the restoration in 2013–2015. The bay window of the second floor with a dome and roof was renewed and the sculptural and stucco decoration of the facade was restored. The main hall also reacquired its original appearance — the marble staircase was restored and its railings were gilded, as well as the stucco ceiling and wall panels.

The facility was honored with the best project title of the Moscow Government competition “Moscow Restoration - 2015” for projects in the field of preservation and popularization of cultural heritage sites.