A collection of the earliest views of the Russian cities on the Volga river and in Siberia, engraved by Russian masters.
These views are part of a series that includes a total of 34 prints. The process of their publication spanned almost forty years (from the creation of the first drawings until the prints were issued) and involved seven artists and twelve Russian engravers. The cities were drawn on the spot between 1733 and 1766 during two great expeditions; the originals were later corrected and re-worked between 1748 and 1768, before being printed at the Academy between 1769 and 1771.
The views offered here of Mangazey and other Siberian cities are based on drawings made during the Great Northern Expedition (1733–1743), ordered by Empress Anna Ioanovna. Under the leadership of Vitus Bering the expedition was charged with mapping the eastern reaches of Siberia and, if possible, continuing on to the western shores of North America in order to explore and map them as well. The twenty eight views of towns encountered on the way, including Novgorod, Tver, Kazan, Tobolsk and Yakutsk, were drawn by the expedition artists J.C. Berckhan and J.W. Lursenius. Delays in passing the drawings to the Engraving Chamber and disruptions in the engraving process meant the plates were not finished until 1771.
The twelve views of cities in the European part of Russia, including Kokshaysk, Sinbirsk, Kuznetsk and Penza, are based on original drawings by Alexander Ivanovich Svechin (end of 1720s – 1796). Svechin, a colonel and artist, headed an expedition to the Volga region in 1765, commissioned by Catherine the Great in order to investigate whether Kazan’s oak forests would provide a decent timber supply for the construction of Russia’s naval fleet. With the help of a ‘camera obscura’, Svechin produced twenty-eight drawings during this trip, including fourteen views of cities on the Volga river that Makhaev then had to review on Catherine’s orders. The result was twelve amended versions of the cities, in which the artist corrected inaccuracies of perspective and unified the composition. In December 1768 the drawings were finally sent to the Engraving Chamber of the Academy of Sciences.
The engraved plates were sold individually and are exceptionally rare.
We were able to trace only two copies comprising all 34 views, both in Russia – in the collections of the State Hermitage Museum and the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Outside Russia the collection of these views was found only in the Eton library, where the copy, in a modern binding, is lacking one plate.
Five views on four sheets, including Vue de la ville de Kokchajsk du côté de la Wolga (34 x 43 cm; sheet 49 x 59 cm); Vue de la ville de Sinbirsk au nord-est (35 x 45 cm; sheet 48.5 x 60 cm); Vue de la ville de Mangasei, Vue de la ville de Kousneszk (two views on one plate 49 x 36 cm; sheet 59.5 x 48.5 cm); Vue de la ville de Pénze sur la Soura du côté du nord-est (19.5 x 45 cm; sheet 24.5 x 59.5 cm), with captions in Russian and French, printed on Dutch handmade paper watermarked C & I Honig IV; central fold, scratches to surface and spotting to Vue de la ville de Kousneszk.
Алексеева М. А. «Собрание Российских и Сибирских городов». Серия гравюр XVIII века, Сообщения Гос. Рус. Музея, вып. VIII, 1964; Алексеева М. А. “Михайло Махаев – мастер видового рисунка XVIII века”, 2003, pp. 237-245; Rovinsky Slovar II-650; cf. Gubar 2590; not in Svodniy Katalog.
Stock ID: 94599