The Zvantseva Apartment

At the beginning of the twentieth century the model of small private school studios spread from the artists’ world of Paris to Russia. In autumn 1906, Elizaveta Zvantseva moved her school from Moscow to Petersburg.  Konstantin Somov, a visitor at the Ivanovs, had written to her about a free apartment with a big round room in the same building. Zvantseva invited Leon Bakst to teach painting in her school, the teacher of drawing was Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. The students included, among others, Margarita Sabashnikova, Elena Guro, and Marc Chagall.

School of painting ad

Ad for the school of painting of Bakst and Dobuzhinsky
from Novoe vremia in 1906.

Margarita Sabashnikova-Voloshinova

Margarita Sabashnikova-Voloshina

At various times in the apartment lived Elizaveta Zvantseva with her sister, poet Maximilian Voloshin and his wife Margarita Sabashnikova, and Mikhail Kuzmin. In the building at Tavricheskaya, the boundaries between apartments, households and families were all blurred. Ivanov and Zinovieva-Annibal saw triangular love as the prototype of a new community for humankind, and Sabashnikova was a candidate for inclusion in such a triad: "They had a remarkable idea: when two people, like them had become one, they could love a third person... Such a love is the beginning of a new human community, even of a new Church, in which eros is incarnated into flesh and blood."

The ties between the artists in the school and writers who gathered at Ivanov's were close. Dobuzhinsky designed the books of the publishing house Ory, which Ivanov had established, and Somov designed the cover of Ivanov’s collection of poems Cor Ardens. There exist a number of portraits that the artists made of the writers and of each other; Konstantin Somov, in particular, acquired fame for the portraits he made.

Portrait of Mikhail Kuzmin Portrait of Vyacheslav Ivanov Portrait of Alexander Blok Portrait of Mstislav Dobuzhinsky Portrait of Leon Bakst

Portraits by Konstantin Somov:
Mikhail Kuzmin; Vyacheslav Ivanov; Alexander Blok; Mstislav Dobuzhinsky; Leon Bakst.
(Click on image to see a lager version)

At Tavricheskaya 25 the artists and writers, as well as theater people who visited them, lived literally under the same roof. The close connections between different arts, and transgression of their boundaries were characteristic of modernism: here we find these connections emplotted in domestic space and in the practices of everyday life.

Covers for publications of Ory by Dobuzhinsky.
Note the Tower on the cover of Ivanov’s book of essays Po zvezdam ("By the stars"). In his memoirs Dobuzhinsky tells how he drew a caricature of Ivanov about to ascend the stars, with small wings on his heels, but was too afraid to show it to Ivanov.
(Click on image to see a lager version)