Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At Home With Stanislavsky

This narrow lane recently given back its old name, Leontyevsky, is better known as Stanislavsky, in honor of the great theater director. Stand in front of the early 19th-century house where he lived, No. 6, now one of the best museums in Moscow. Stanislavsky, who came from a wealthy merchant family, the Alexeyevs, was obliged to move here in 1921 when his big house on Karetny Ryad was confiscated for a chauffeurs' club. Representations by Lunacharsky were successful in obtaining appropriate premises for the 58-year-old Stanislavsky and his family, although they were only given one floor.

You enter from the courtyard where, unexpectedly, there are small medieval windows on the basement level while above, on the left, large windows indicate the main reception room and on the right two rows of smaller windows show that beyond the reception hall the house is divided into two more floors. The reception room, with its columns and raised floor, was ideal for rehearsals when Stanislavsky was too ill to attend the theater. One can imagine the arguments with Mikhail Bulgakov, who came here to discuss his play, "The White Guard."

The other domestic rooms with original furniture include Stanislavsky's study and bedroom and his wife's room. The ceilings are especially fine and there are splendid Art Nouveau doors and cupboards. On the ground floor an exhibition has been laid out of Stanislavsky's costumes and his dressing room, brought here from the Arts Theater.

The Stanislavsky theme continues in the neo-baroque mansion, No. 9, across the street. Now the Cuban Embassy, in blue and white with extensive bas-reliefs and original iron railings and gates, it was built in the 1880s by Dmitry Chichagov for Nikolai Alexeyev, the first cousin of Stanislavsky, and the town golova, or mayor, of Moscow from 1885 to 1893. Nikolai Alexeyev was known for his energy and ability to overcome the inertia of bureaucracy in the interests of the city. He not only saw to the improvements of amenities in the way of hospitals and schools, but himself gave a large sum of money toward the establishment of the first modern psychiatric hospital at Kanachikov (now named Kashenko). Unfortunately, Alexeyev did not live to see the building completed. In 1893 he was murdered by a madman in his own office in the Duma (the former Lenin Museum).

Across the street to the left of the Alexeyev house is a picturesque building in pseudo-Russian style which houses the Museum of Folk Art. The old town estate here was acquired by Sergei Morozov, brother of the more famous Savva, and rebuilt in this romantic style in 1903 by architect Sergei Solovyov and presented to the folk museum, which was established in 1885. The low entrance, with peaked roof and fat melon-like columns in the center, divides it in two. The main building to the left of the entrance, housing the museum, is the oldest part and although remodeled by Solovyov, the interior layout survives. The section on the right was only added in 1911 as an exhibition hall and market for the toys and textiles from Russian villages. It still serves that function, although nowadays everything is far too expensive. On entering the museum, note the fantastic ceramic fireplace in the front hall. It is by Mikhail Vrubel, the outstanding artist of the early years of this century.

Next to the Museum of Folk Art is another curious pseudo-Russian building. It housed the printing house of Anatoly Mamontov (like the builder of the folk museum next door, he also had a more famous brother, also called Savva, of Abramtsevo fame). It was built in 1872 by the fine architect, Viktor Gartman, using ancient Russian motifs 30 years before its neighbor. How curious that these excellent examples of the Russian national revival stand side by side.

To the left of the Stanislavsky house is No. 4, one of the most elegant houses of the Empire period. Now the Greek Embassy, it was built in the middle of the 18th century but acquired its present form between 1817 and 1823. It has a splendid portico of 12 columns which faces the courtyard, and fine friezes along the street which resemble those of the university. In the middle of the 19th century Agrafena Zakrevskaya, wife of the reactionary governor-general of Moscow, bought the house. She was a famous hostess and beauty, and was believed to have had an affair with Pushkin in her youth. From the late 19th century to 1917 it belonged to a merchant family, Sorokoumovsky, who contributed generously to charities in prerevolutionary Moscow. (Metro Pushkinskaya)

© Kathy Berton Murrell