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A. Fantalov.

The faces of German-Scandinavian gods on fronts of Saint Petersburg and Moscow houses.

(It was printed in "The Culture of Saint Petersburg region in science and education". SPb. university by Herzen, 2000)

 

Architecture of the end of 19 - the beginning of 20 centuries attracts scholars' s attentions now. However sculpture decoration was not investigated. It is pity, because many representation of this epoch dedicated to interesting mythological subjects. As main field of my preferences is the mythology, I have decided to find the principal mythological representation on facades of Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Classicism with its canon of Antique mythology had influence on architecture of Saint Petersburg at 18 - first half of 19 centuries. Moreover, forms that have got not Greek or Roman origins were prohibited as decorations of Russian houses till 1830-s. Therefore images of Antique mythology occupy such significant place on the Moscow and Petersburg facades. They personify harmonic, 'Apollonic' side. It is not surprisely, that there numerous decorative representations of griphon (sacral Apollo's animal) and mask of Medusa Gorgon (inspite of this personage terrible reputation, her head as ehida belonged to Athena Pallada (goddess of mind).

But people have got tired for cold classicism. Besides that Russian society change. Businessmen began to get important play for country. In architecture this process was impressed with new Eclectic and Modern stiles. As for decoration of facades, Apollo gave his place up Hermes. The complicated character of Hermes (psichopomp and mediator), that is embodiment of transformation of conditions, was liked new owner rich houses. They simply understand Hermes as the symbol of trade. Therefore this god began to occupy Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Since gold age Antiquity Hermes's image was formed: slim youth, without beard, with short hear. He has got a plane winged helmet and baton-caduceus with two snakes.

There are numerous representations of Hermes face on the fronts of houses (sometimes also his head). For example: Beside we can see even impressible statue of this Greek god.

But as he is embodiment of transformation (at the Middle Ages alchemist considered Hermes/Mercury in connection of chemical mercury) image the Greek god has mutilated. The helmet and the wings grow up. Hermes character diverges into two types. The first type is a bearded man with long moustache; the second one is a young woman with locks.

It can be said, that to attribute these representations very difficult. Author of this article do this work by means of analyze mythology, features of the considered epoch, preferences of architects or customers.

Since second half of 19 century in Europe attention for non-classic myths has been increasing. One of founders of 'new-mythologism' is Richard Wagner. He has created opera tetralogy "The ring of Nibelung" in terms of German-Scandinavian mythology. Thanks to Wagner European society acquaint oneself with gods and heroes of North legend. The most important character of ones was Odin/Woden, the super god, and possessor of wisdom and mystery knowledge. According to myths he gathers dead warrior and wanders between worlds. This North god has got significant resemblance with Greek Hermes. Also the important personage was valkiry, a warrior woman.

In Russia at the end of 19 - beginning of 20 ages creative work by Wagner has got many supporters. There are a list of the houses what contained on theirs facades images of Scandinavian gods. These houses were built at the end 19 - at the beginning 20 centuries, when the Wagner's operas were popular in Russia.

Saint Petersburg.

1. Angliyskaya nab. 30. 1872 (was built for Edward Mayer - General consul of Bayern). The women's faces with winged helmets and men's head with long beards.

2. Saltikova-Stchedrina ul. 4. 1901. Man's face with moustache and winged helmet.

3. Kazanskaya pl. 2. There is big women head with helmet. The helmet has got the bat' wings.

4. Gorohovaya ul. 47. 1912. This house is decorated with six masks. The most interesting masks of them are three one (two bearded men's faces of Nordic type with the wings and one women's face with the winged helmets).

Moscow.

1. Chlebniy per. 18. 1901. Woman with bat wings and helmet like owl.

2. Pushkinskaya ul. 12. 1884. Man's face with moustache and winged helmet.

3. Telegrafniy per. 9. Old man's face with winged helmet and beard.

In architectural decor of Saint Petersburg there are (or there were) also some sculptures, that probably devoted North subjects. For instance:

1. Nevskiy pr. 28. 1904. The facades are decorated six bronze sculptures like decorations of ship. These are images of women. Three of them have got the helmets, the swan wings and spears. Three others possessed distaffs and the butterfly wings. I suppose that the ideas of valkiries have influenced on them appearances.

2. Isaakievskaya pl. 11. 1904. House of German embassy. There were sculptural groups on roof: two men with round shields keep two horses. This group got a sad destiny. In 1914 the 1 Great War has begun. The statues were threw down and lost.

The 1 Great War and Russian revolution has stopped development of culture process. Fan only now we has begun to know ideas new-romanticism and new-mythologism.

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