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What made the husband of the beauty from the portrait of Rokotov famous, and why did Catherine II brag about him to foreigners
What made the husband of the beauty from the portrait of Rokotov famous, and why did Catherine II brag about him to foreigners

Nikolai Struisky would hardly have been remembered two centuries after his death, if not for the famous portrait of his wife, sung, moreover, in a well-known poem. In the eyes of his contemporaries, he was a graphomaniac and a madman, but if you look from today, Struisky looks like an innovator in some way. Therefore, doubts arise - were his poems really empty and mediocre?

The path to your own "Parnassus"

Nikolai Struisky was an enthusiastic man, revered Empress Catherine II as a deity, and not only her, considering himself a faithful servant of the ancient muses. Perhaps he intended to become the luminary of Russian poetry, a kind of Prometheus, who gave people not fire, but the power of verse. But this did not happen, and he gained fame for another reason.

F.S. Rokotov. Portrait of N.E. Struisky

The biography of Nikolai Eremeevich Struisky as a whole did not represent anything that would distinguish him among the nobles of the Russian Empire. He was born in 1749 in the Volga region, was the only son of the landowner Eremey Yakovlevich and his wife Praskovya Ivanovna. Struisky received, as expected, a home education, after which he went to the old and new capitals: he studied at the gymnasium at Moscow University, then entered the service in the Preobrazhensky Guards Regiment, where, by the way, one of his fellow soldiers was the poet Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin.

He lived in the capital until 1771, after which he retired and returned to Ruzayevka, an estate once bought by his father. The Pugachev uprising of 1773 - 1775 deprived the Struysky family of several of its representatives at once and at the same time made Nikolai Eremeevich the heir of the entire family fortune. He became a very wealthy man, the owner of more than 3000 souls, and could afford everything that could then be purchased for money. Fortunately, with the choice of a case to which his own soul lay, Struisky did not have any difficulties.

In Moscow, the building of the estate of N.E. Struisky - at the corner of Denisovsky and Tokmakov lanes

Passionately fond of literature and books, art, and at the same time science, he created in Ruzayevka something like a temple dedicated to all this. Struisky was not afraid of expenses, and therefore the estate was a real palace, built, as it is believed, according to the drawings of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, a representative of the Elizabethan Baroque. The Volga lands of the landowner dazzled with snow-white marble and golden domes, Italian painting of temples and luxurious church utensils, the estate was surrounded by a rampart, the park in front of the main house was divided into alleys, decorated with a pond and a labyrinth - in the manner of capital estates.

F.S. Rokotov. Portrait of Catherine II

Struisky ordered the artist Fyodor Rokotov a copy of the portrait that he painted from the Empress. And the front hall of the estate was decorated with a painted plafond, where Catherine was depicted in the image of Minerva defeating a monster, a symbol of embezzlement. This work was done by the serf artist Andrei Zyablov, who studied at the Rokotov workshop.

The study where the owner of the house worked was filled with books and was called Parnassus. Nikolai Eremeevich devoted all his time to versification and reading other people's works. And all would be fine, but his poetry met with his contemporaries not the reception that the poet usually hopes for. Bulky, ponderous forms, pompous phrases devoid of meaning did not at all arouse admiration among connoisseurs of listeners and readers of Struisky's literary creations.

An engraving has survived, depicting a plafond by Zyablov at the Struisky estate

Struisky's creativity and printing

The brothers in the shop laughed at what came out of the pen of the eccentric landowner. He himself enjoyed both the process and the result of his writing. Struisky made his guests listen to how he recited his verses, and he did it exceptionally expressively, with a howl. Even for the era of Derzhavin, this was too much. Nikolai Eremeevich published his first poetic works in printing houses in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 1789, Struisky presented the Empress with an edition of his own work entitled “Epistola to Her Imperial Majesty, the All-Blessed Heroine, the Great Empress Catherine II, from the most faithful Nikolai Struisky,” for which he was awarded a diamond ring from the Empress.

The books published in Ruzayevka were of excellent quality; their number was very small

And in 1792 Struisky opened his own printing house in Ruzayevka. It was a very expensive entertainment - the equipment was brought from England, additional expenses required training serfs to work on machine tools. But the poet organized everything according to the highest level - the editions that were produced in Ruzayevka were distinguished by an exceptionally high level of performance. The first book published in his printing house was the "Ring" edition - in memory of the gift of the empress.

About the life and work of Struisky is known from a few sources, one of them was the memoirs of Prince Ivan Dolgorukov, who served as vice-governor of the Penza province and visited Ruzayevka. The poet himself, he spoke of the writer Struisk with hostility. The landowner, among other quirks, was suspected of a tendency to mock the serfs - however, unlike the notorious Saltychikha, he was not caught in this, and even those who did not complain about Struisky admitted that they had no confirmation of these rumors.

Prince Ivan Dolgorukov left rather verbose memories of Struysky

In any case, it is known that the owner was in the habit of involving peasants in performances on legal topics, starting "trials", dramatized litigation, in which each participant had a role to play. It was said that at times the landowner flirted and confused the production and reality.

At the same time, he was skeptical about the passion with which he approached the study of the publishing process. In a sense, Struisky was ahead of his time: he was well versed in things that book publishers would use in their work several decades later.

The last surviving photo of the estate in Ruzayevka

This work of her loyal subject was appreciated, by the way, by the empress herself, who, without particularly focusing on the content, proudly demonstrated the books of the Ruzaev printing house to foreign ambassadors and even presented them, mentioning in passing that such books in the empire were produced not in the capital or in Moscow, but in a distant province.

Inheritance and heirs

Nikolai Eremeevich spent most of his income on maintaining the printing house. But this did not last long. In 1796, by order of the Empress, it had to be closed, like all other private printing houses of the empire: Catherine was afraid of a repetition of the events of the Great French Revolution in Russia; she signed a corresponding decree banning private printing houses. During the existence of the brainchild of Struisky, more than fifty works were published - not only by the authorship of the landowner himself, but also other texts that he considered worthy of publication.

F.S. Rokotov. Portrait of A.P. Struyskoy

Struisky's genius as a literary "victim" of his graphomania was denied. True, now the view on his work has changed somewhat - these poems are considered and studied almost as illustrating the level and characteristic features of Russian art of the second half of the 18th century.

As for family life - the first marriage between 19-year-old Struisky and his peer ended unsuccessfully, Olympiada Sergeevna died in childbirth, like two twins. He married for the second time in 1772 - to Alexandra Petrovna Ozerova, the one whose face the portrait painter Rokotov would glorify. Portraits of Struisky and his wife, made by the artist, adorned the living room of the palace in Ruzayevka.

Nikolai Eremeevich called his wife Saphira, dedicated odes and other laudatory lines to her, however, she was far from the only addressee of this kind. Eighteen children were born in the marriage, eight of whom survived to adulthood.

Alexander Ivanovich Polezhaev

On November 17, news came of the death of Empress Catherine II, and this news struck down the unfortunate Struisky. He fell ill after a stroke with a fever and died three weeks after the news, on 13 December. Struisky was 47 years old. The widow survived him by 43 years, becoming the head of the family after the death of her husband. Struisky's two grandchildren became famous for their poems, both were born of serfs, both lived a rather unhappy life.

Alexander Polezhaev was the son of Leonty Nikolaevich Struisky, exiled to Siberia for the massacre of a serf. He was the author of the poem "Sashka", for which, at the behest of Emperor Nicholas I, he went into exile in the army. He died at the age of 33 from consumption.

Dmitry Struisky, legalized and given the title of nobility, was also a poet, played excellent musical instruments, and became one of the first music critics. He embarked on a journey to Europe, ended his life in a madhouse in Paris.

The museum in Ruzayevka contains an ink set, possibly belonging to Nikolai Struisky

It was not possible to preserve the magnificent printing house and the estate itself in Ruzayevka. After the death of Struisky, the equipment was sold by his widow for the Simbirsk city printing house. The works of art that filled the estate were sent to Moscow and St. Petersburg museums, where they can be seen even now.

A school is now located on the site of the Struiskys' house. Only one item has survived in the museum, which may have once belonged to Nikolai Eremeevich Struisky. This is a bronze inkwell. It is symbolic that it was precisely the literary, compositional attribute that became the connecting link between the subject of Catherine II and the present.

But as the son of a serf woman became the favorite artist of the Empress and the Moscow nobility: Fyodor Rokotov.

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