1806 - 1868

The Iconography of F. I. Tyutchev

Museum-Reserve of Feodor Tyutchev "Muranovo"

In his book, My memoirs, published in 1890, Fet wrote: “I have a soft spot for Tyutchev, not only as someone who is fond of me but as the most ethereal embodiment of the romanticized image of the poet. The first thing to say is that Fyodor Ivanovich used to wince at the merest reference to his poetic gifts, and nobody dared broach the topic in his presence. Yet however one tries to cover up sweet-smelling flowers, their scent will always make its presence felt in the room; and wherever and whenever one encountered Fyodor Ivanovich's face, with its soft, feminine features and open expression, reminiscent of the soft, intertwined grey hairs of his poetry:

The morning freshness comes a-wafting
Through my dishevelled locks of hair... - F. I. Tyutchev "Like a bird in the Early dawn" (1836)


...or wandering along the pavement lost in thought, in his creased hat, the sleeve of his shabby fur coat trailing along the ground, one saw in him the muses' chosen one, proclaiming through Lermontov's lips:


I talk now not to you but to my heart...” - Mikhail Lermontov (1841)

In Russia there has always been a huge amount of interest in the creative output of the great Russian poet, philosopher, diplomat and statesman, Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev. It is hard to overstate Tyutchev's influence on social thought in Russia. Many of the axioms he came up with in the salons of high society, in Munich or St Petersburg, immediately caught on and began to be repeated all over Russia and Europe. In Tyutchev's physiognomy itself, indeed, there was something inexpressibly attractive, something almost other-worldly and cosmic – and the same was true of his poetry.
Typical of the things said about him are the thoughts of one of Tyutchev's most intelligent contemporaries, Yuri Fyodorovich Samarin. After the poet's death, Samarin wrote to another outstanding figure in Russian culture, the ideologue and apologist for Slavophilia, Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov:

“I've had another read of his collected poems and found it very difficult to tear myself away from the picture of him inside the book. What an abundance and diversity of gifts could be perceived in that dear face.”

All of the above helps to explain why the poet's contemporaries showed such interest in pictures of him. It is worth noting that he had his photograph taken by some of the most outstanding photo artists of the twentieth century, and the portraits themselves became known as outstanding examples of light painting, a newly emerging form of art.
Muranovo houses a collection of materials featuring images of the great Russian poet and diplomat; the collection is extremely complete and therefore very rare.

The exhibition opens with a pastel portrait of Fyodor Ivanovich as a child, completed forty years before the advent of the daguerreotype, in Ovstug, the Tyutchevs' family estate in the Governorate of Bryansk. The next work, painted using oil on canvas, depicts Tyutchev as a student at Moscow University. The final artistic portrait of Tyutchev, completed using the mixed method, was painted in Munich in the 1830s by an amateur female artist who lived near the Tyutchevs, I. Rekhberg.

K. Dautende
The 1840s marked the start of a new era for humanity: the age of photography. Four daguerreotypes featuring depictions of the poet survive in Russia, two of which can be seen in Muranovo. The first daguerreotype was taken in Munich. The first studio for portrait daguerreotypes opened in the capital of Bavaria in July 1841. The photograph was taken before the poet left for Russia in September 1844.

The museum houses almost all the photographs of Tyutchev taken by St Petersburg's finest masters of light photography. The photographic works of S. L. Levitsky, H. I. Denier, H. H. Robillard and G. F. Steinberg recorded not only the expressive physiognomy of the philosopher-poet but also a fleeting image of the time in which he lived.

The earliest photographic image of Tyutchev is a portrait taken by K. Dautende in 1850 or 1851 using the so-called Talbot method (named after William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the negative-positive process, which made it possible to develop an unlimited number of prints on paper).

Using Talbot's invention, Dautende's photographic studio began to reproduce artistic canvases and retouch or add colour to photographic images. One of the images to come out of these coloured-in photographs, in which the photographer's art was combined with that of the painter, was this remarkable portrait. It recorded not only the poet's outward appearance but also his romantic inner nature.
It was with good reason that the Severnaya pchela (Northern Bee) newspaper wrote of Dautende's works: “In a matter of minutes he takes portraits which are as true to life as nature itself.”

G. F. Steinberg
Among the many photographic portraits of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev, one that was of special note was the photograph on a framed calling card by G. F. Steinberg. The poet sits in a thoughtful pose, half-turned away from us behind an oval table; he is gazing at a piece of paper lying on the table and his left hand is raised to his heart... It is as though Steinberg – a remarkable artist and psychologist – was blessed with the ability to record the moment of a poem’s creation. The photograph was taken in 1860. It is without question one of the great masterpieces of the history of photographic art, and conveys with remarkable accuracy the psychological physiognomy of a man immersed in the creative process.

In the two poets' study in the house at Muranovo there are some large portraits of Fyodor Ivanovich and his wife Ernestina Fyodorovna together, taken by the photographer H. H. Robillard.

Hippolyte Hippolytovich Robillard
The French artist Hippolyte Hippolytovich Robillard first travelled to Russia in the early 1840s. In 1857 his paintings were exhibited in the halls of the Academy of artists, and at around the same time he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his artistic exploits. In the late 1850s Robillard took up photography: he opened a photographic studio which enjoyed great success among St Petersburg's aristocracy.

Diary entries written by M. F. Tyutcheva, the poet's daughter, make it clear that in 1862 he was the only photographer to have taken photos of members of the Tyutchev family. There are references to trips made by her mother, Ernestina Fyodorovna, her brother Dmitry, and Marie herself to his studio at 52, Bolshaya Morskaya Street. There are no entries explaining how exactly the portrait of Tyutchev ended up in this same studio; but one possible explanation for this is that when writing about events involving both her parents, Marie tends only to mention her mother. The diary entry for 3rd April (under the new style calendar) reads: “Mama went to see Robillard to have her photo taken.” The photo was ready on 11th April. It therefore seems that we can be fairly certain of when the portrait of her father was taken.

H. I. Denier
Of all the images of the Tyutchevs, the one that enjoyed the most success of all was probably the portrait ‘with a throw over his shoulders’, taken by H. I. Denier in 1864. At the Universal Exhibition in Paris three years later, where 589 exponents of the art of photography had their work exhibited, Denier was awarded a special prize for his work. The poet's daughter, Y. F. Tyutcheva, who went to see the exhibition, wrote to her uncle N. V. Sushkov: “...the thing that made me exclaim with delight was that in the Russian section there was a magnificent portrait of papa, a large photograph taken by Denier, on display next to portraits of members of the Imperial family and two or three others ...” In 1894 the poet's widow bestowed the portrait which had gone on display at the exhibition to N. I. Tyutchev, the man who would go on to found the museum at Muranovo: “To my grandson Nikolai. A portrait of his grandfather, Fyodor Ivanovich, in a gold wooden frame...”

Heinrich (Andrei) Ivanovich Denier, a man of Swiss extraction, began working in St Petersburg in 1850. After fifteen years he began to specialize in photo portraits. The journal The Photographer told its readers: “The well-known photographer of their Imperial majesties A. I. Denier, known for his genuinely artistic portraits, has undertaken the publication in monthly instalments in 1865 of an Album of Photographic Portraits, each volume of which is going to contain 12 cards featuring images of members of the Imperial family, state dignitaries and individuals from various classes of society, famous for their achievements, as well as academics, writers, artists and people of note in Russia due to their activities in the community.

The album, which will contain 14 cards, will be priced at 15 roubles, or just over 10 kopecks for each card, even though each card will be of interest on not one but two levels: both as an image of a remarkable individual and as an example of a work of art – an authentic photographic study.”

The second edition of Denier's publication contained a photograph of Tyutchev with the epigraph: “A gentleman-in-waiting of the Court of Her Imp. Majesty.” It is possible to put a fairly precise date on this photographic study “with hands folded across his chest”. In a letter to her stepdaughter Daria dated 12th May 1868, the poet's wife recalled this portrait of her husband, for which he had sat “4 years ago, before we travelled abroad.” Ernestina Fyodorovna and her daughter Maria set off on their foreign travels on 10th May 1864. In 1868 Ivan Sergeyevich Aksakov, who had become the poet's brother-in-law in 1866, and Ivan Fyodorovich Tyutchev published the second edition of Tyutchev's poems to be printed during his lifetime. Fifty copies of the anthology were adorned by this particular photograph.

Sergei Lvovich Levitsky
Another outstanding photography artist, Sergei Lvovich Levitsky, took photos of Fyodor Ivanovich at various times over the years. In 1856 a portrait of Tyutchev was included among a series of photo portraits of the greatest Russian writers which were taken by a photographer in St Petersburg. It seems likely that Ernestina Fyodorovna gave the photo in question to her stepdaughter Anna (who at the time was a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Maria Alexandrovna) for her birthday. There is an entry about this in Anna Fyodorovna's Souvenir book: “The Lord gave me a portrait of myself, and mama gave me a portrait of father.”

1865 Levitsky worked in France. His photography salon became one of the best in Paris. Almost all the Russian nobles who travelled to Paris visited his studio. When taking photos, Levitsky used a painted background with a romantic architectural landscape. Tyutchev was in Paris from the 18th until the 29th of March 1865. It was then that this portrait was made, which may well be the most unusual portrait in all the iconography of the poet: “in a top-hat, with an umbrella and a throw”, with the same landscape in the background.

The strangeness of Tyutchev's physiognomy in this portrait can be attributed, first and foremost, to the pain he was suffering at the time, having suffered a fateful loss, the death of Y. A. Denisieva.
At that time, in Paris, he often met up with Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, who told an interesting tale which was recorded by the poet Afanasy Fet: “When Tyutchev returned from Nice, where he had written his famous poem: ‘O the south, O this Nice!..’ – we popped into a café on the boulevard to discuss something, and, asking a waiter to bring us some ice cream, sat down under a trellis covered with ivy. I was silent the whole time, but Tyutchev was talking in a pained voice, and as he neared the end of his story the breast of his shirt was wet through because of the tears that had fallen onto it.”

The last time Levitsky took Tyutchev's photograph was in St Petersburg, in 1867. He took two full-size photographs: in one of them Tyutchev is leaning on a cane, whilst in the other he has his arms crossed over his chest. He had already been photographed in the same pose by Denier in 1864. These images of the poet were later reproduced in many editions of his works.

Ernestina Tyutcheva ordered enlarged copies of this one from the Munich-based photographer Albert in 1875. One of the enlarged copies was hung up on the wall in her apartment in St Petersburg. She gave the other copy to I. S. Aksakov as a thank you for his biography of her husband. Today, both of these portraits of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev are on display at the Muranovo museum.

On 25th February 1885, Ernestina Fyodorovna wrote in her diary: “Received from Levitsky the photographs of my Beloved which I ordered. A striking likeness.” These were prints of a negative taken in 1867 and carefully preserved by Levitsky. Ernestina Tyutcheva reproduced this image in 1886 in an anthology of her husband's poems which she published herself.
The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to bring together, in a single virtual forum, all the images and iconography of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev, that outstanding thinker, poet and prophet, whose identity and creative oeuvre are as appealing today as they were one hundred and fifty years ago. It may be that by looking at these images of the poet we will be able to find answers to some of the questions posed in his prophetic poetic masterpieces and journalistic articles.

Museum-Reserve of Feodor Tyutchev "Muranovo"
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