Makaseeva Elena Mikhailovna

Yelena Makaseyeva Collection

The collection that the Museum of Private Collections had the honour to receive in 2004 became a priceless gift. Yelena Makaseyeva (1920–2004) was a friend of the Museum for many years regularly attending its exhibitions and concerts held in its venue. Her last will was drawn so that her collection which adds up to four hundred works of art – paintings, drawings and decorative artefacts – was bequeathed to the Museum.

Makaseyeva was close to arts by birth and breeding. Collecting art was in her blood. Her father, Mikhail Vaisbein, used to collect paintings and antiques. Her uncle, the start of the Soviet film and jazz, Leonid Utyosov, was keen on collecting Agit-porcelain, or propaganda porcelain.

After graduating from the script-writing department of the Moscow Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), Makaseyeva worked as an editor for the Moscow Studios of Popular Science Documentaries practically all her life.

Among her close friends were the couple of Fyodor and Yekaterina Lemkul, the well-known collectors of glassware. Their collection was also donated to the Museum of Private Collections and serves as a special attraction of the permanent exhibition.

Collecting arts became Yelena Makaseyeva's life-long passion. Her collection is made up of small ones representing different arts, mostly decorative. There are pieces of furniture, glassware, porcelain, beadwork, silver and others. There are paintings and drawings too. Taken together they represent a unique encyclopedic collection that gives a mostly full, and very true-to-life, idea of the interior of the 19th century noble estate home with its special traditions and atmosphere which has been referred to as the Golden Age of the Russian culture.

The centrepiece of the Makaseyeva collection is undoubtedly Russian and European porcelain. Covering the period of mid-17th to mid-20th centuries, it illustrates the most interesting chapters in the history of porcelain making. The collection features both splendid examples of the Imperial Porcelain Works, St Petersburg and the chinaware produced by the various private 19th-century Russian factories which were quite numerous. Among the largest and most well-known they are primarily those of Gardner and Popov. European porcelain is represented by that of Meisen and Frankental beside others. The painting of the plates made in Russia and Britain demonstrates a great variety of subjects. The numerous flacons and bottles, tea and coffee pairs amaze with the extravagance of their unusual forms and bright flowery patterns.

The porcelain is luckily matched by the artistic glassware, comparatively small but exquisitely chosen and featuring mainly fancy flacons of coloured opal glass and multi-layer glass finely decorated with enamel and gold paint.

Most of those rare pieces were made by the Imperial Glass Factory, St Petersburg and the Bakhmetiev and Maltsov factories in the second quarter of the 19th century.

The boom of the coloured glass production in the late 18th century, and the return of the fashion in the 1830s, encouraged such a laborious kind of craft, reminding that of a jeweller, as glass-bead embroidery, which was extremely popular in Russia. The Makaseyeva collection demonstrates subject pictures, all kind of purses, wallets, glass-holders, a bell-pull and a chibouk made in this rare technique.

The silver includes small tableware – wine cups, coffee pots, coups for sweets. The gem of the silver collection is a set of five small spoons made in Holland in the 19th century. Each of them has a relief picture on the bottom and a figure-cast end of the handle. The subjects used are traditional Dutch genre scenes and motifs – the tavern, the fishing, the mill, and the ship, of course. The dainty silver snuffboxes remind of the 18th century gallant manners and fashions.

In her flat, the art collector used to keep all those precious things on the shelves of numerous cases, cabinets and vitrines. The walls were hung up with wonderful paintings and drawings by Vladimir Hau, Orest Kiprensky, Philipp Malyavin, Alexander Benois-Konsky and others. There were also a lot of works – landscapes and genre scenes – either unsigned or belonging to the brush of anonymous Russian and European artists of the 19th century.

A considerable part of the collection is watercolour portraits on small sheets of paper and miniatures in oil on bone. The 18th century and the first half of the 19th century are known to be the heyday of the miniature portrait painting. Those tiny portraits used to serve as modern photographs. Painters were commissioned to make such portraits of the near and dear, the children, the beloved ones and friends to be able to keep the memory of their faces.

Yelena Makaseyeva used to collect things which were not just beautiful but could tell an interesting story, a person's secret, which made the atmosphere in her house special, exiting. Many of the things were not only for the sake of the collection but for everyday use. That explains why most of them belong to the decorative arts and luckily combine their exquisite aesthetic design and fairly practical use. All the things in the Makaseyevs' home had their own place and were used according to their intent: the furniture, mirrors, perfume flacons, china cups; the paintings and drawings were a part of the usual interior decoration. When buying those antiques Yelena Makaseyeva did not think much about preserving them as museum rarities. What was important was that the old things after being introduced in her home could start a new life without losing the spirit of the part that lived in them, which they could convey to their new owner.

Every exhibit of the Makaseyeva collection could be studied and enjoyed indefinitely long. The subjects of the pictures and paintings of the porcelain, forms and colour of the works of the decorative arts, their perfect and various techniques revive the special and cosy atmosphere of the past times.

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