2. Museum/   History/

History of the Buildings

The Museum of Russian Icon is located in one of the oldest streets of Moscow, in Goncharnaya Street, which took its name from the artisan pottery suburb which settled here in the XV century (the word “Goncharnaya” translates as “potter’s”). This quiet street runs along the side of one of the seven hills of the capital which was then known as “Shvivaja Gorka”. The first record about the street dates back to 1476, which is also the approximate time of construction of the Church of St. Nikita the Martyr which is located in the neighborhood. The church was then rebuilt in stone in the XVI century and exists today with side chapels, a refectory, and a tent-shaped bell tower of the XVII–XIX centuries. By the early XIX century the architectural image of Goncharnaya Street was shaped by large mansions with orchards which were rebuilt and restored in Empire style after the fire of 1812. Some of the mansions survived until the present day and partially retained their look and even the charm of the surrounding ancient environment in spite of the mass construction projects of the 1930’s which in some places destroyed the historic layout of the neighbourhood completely.

The plot where the Museum of Russian Icon is situated today and the two-storeyed stone building located on the plot were mentioned in 1817 as the property of merchant F. Lepetov, and in 1883 as the property of merchant D.E. Grachev. It was at the time of the latter that architect A. Medvedkov constructed another two-storeyed Empire-style stone building near the first one. The old building received a new look in 1913 when it was owned by M.S. Emelyanova. According to the major reconstruction project by architect N. Polikarpov, it was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style, and two more residential floors were added, united by a semicircular bay window. Therefore the modern building of the Museum of Russian Icon has in its basis two united residential buildings – the two-storeyed mansion of the end of the XIX century and the four-storeyed apartment house altered in the early XX century. While preserving the overall historic look and architectural elements of the past, a moder clear glass ceiling was constructed over the inner yard thus forming an atrium space. Filled with light and air, it serves as an entrance lobby to the museum exhibition halls.
The selection of the place for the museum collection was determined not only by the convenient location of the building in downtown Moscow, but also by the proximity to the architectural complex of the town church of the Russian St. Panteleimon Monastery on the Holy Mt. Athos, which was established in 1992 under the ancient Church of St. Nikita. It is significant that the united architectural ensemble with newly built churches and chapels is characterized by the distinct look of an Old Russian cloister.