top of page

Overview of Muratov Studies and Activities of the “Centro
Internazionale di Studi Pavel Muratov”

Xenia Muratova

I spent my childhood in a very old Moscow apartment in which practically nothing
had changed since prerevolutionary times. Even during the Second World War, when
my parents were evacuated to Kazaсhstan with the scientific institutes where they
worked, my grandmother, great aunts and uncles remained in Moscow and preserved
the family milieu, furniture, library and the same style of life.1
It was the apartment of my grandfather, Vladimir Muratov (1868-1934), who was
commander-in-chief of the Sevastopol’ Fortress staff between 1910 and 1915, hero
of the First World War, and older brother of Pavel Muratov (1881-1950). The Muratov
siblings – three brothers and a sister – were very close, bound to each other by
a deep friendship. The furnishings, artifacts, art works, and library that had long
been in the Muratov family travelled with them everywhere their father, Pavel
Ivanovič Muratov, a military physician, was sent to serve Russia: from Moscow to
Warsaw, from Warsaw to Poltava or Voronež, and again to Moscow, and then to Sebastopol,
and once more to Moscow – everywhere this family of military men was
stationed in the vast empire. It was in this apartment that in 1922, before leaving
Russia forever, Pavel Muratov left some of his belongings. In comparison with the
opulent possessions left behind by many other Russian aristocratic families who
were obliged to flee, these few belongings were very modest. But they were precious
to him and to his family, and they did everything they could to preserve them.
After the disappearance of my parents in 1987, this very specific – and, at that
time, unique – ambiance of the old Russian way of life that they had preserved in
Soviet Russia, was partially destroyed: I was obliged to bequeath several important
1 This paper was presented at the 2016 ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian
Studies) Convention, in the panel “Pavel Pavlovich Muratov: an Aperture into Modernity” (Washington
D. C., 2016). We thank Dr. Elizabeth Ransome for providing a copy of the transcript of the
text. Footnotes were added by the editors. For Muratov’s works and translations, see the author’s
bibliography (note 3).
paintings to the Museum of Private Collections in Moscow (Otdel ličnych kollekcij,
Gosudarstvennyj muzej izobrazitel’nych iskusstv imeni A. S. Puškina) and a significant
ensemble of furniture and artifacts to the Moscow Historical Museum (Gosudarstvennyj
istoričeskij muzej). These bequests enabled me to hold on to relatively
few but important pieces, which were transported to Paris and Rome. These now
comprise the material holdings of the Muratov Centre.
Pavel Muratov left Russia, but his name was remembered in Soviet Russia for
many years, particularly through his celebrated book Images of Italy (Obrazy Italii,
published in 1911-1912; second edition: 1912-1913) preserved in the personal libraries
of surviving old Russian families. In their circles, his name was always pronounced
with special admiration. I recall how often, when, as a student, I would
introduce myself by name, my interlocutors would ask, with a mixture of hope and
distrust, ≪You are not, by chance, related to... ?≫. And when I answered in the affirmative,
I saw their eyes light up with a worshipful gratitude that filled me with pride.
I grew accustomed to this response in the years when the name of Pavel Muratov
could open many and various doors.
≪You cannot imagine what significance this book had for us≫, a well-known literary
critic from Saint-Petersburg told me some years ago. In the Soviet atmosphere
of cultural isolation, Images of Italy was the bright beacon of the very highest, most
refined, and absolutely free culture; of individual freedom in judgment of cultural
values; of a marvelously precise, nuanced, and expressive Russian language.
As time went on, however, the old admirers of Muratov’s book became fewer and
fewer, while the new generations knew nothing of its existence. A handful of specialists
were still familiar with it, but they were unaware of Muratov’s important
‘oeuvre’ written in emigration, after 1922. In his own country he was nearly forgotten,
and in the West, too, his name was fading from memory. New generations of
art historians came forward to rewrite and rethink the cultural phenomena Muratov
had analyzed during the first decades of the 20th century – phenomena in which Muratov
had broken new ground in advancing our art-historical knowledge: he discovered
the aesthetic value of the Russian icon; the important role of new movements
in art for the ‘re-education of our eye and of our sensibilities’, and, of course, Italy
as the cultural home of all humanity.
Those who knew him personally invariably stressed his highly original and independent
cast of mind. In every subject to which he was drawn by his insatiable
curiosity, he was a pioneer. His was the first monograph on Old Russian painting
in general; the first book on Byzantine painting; the first writings on modern art.
As a historian, he authored (with William Allen as co-author) the first book on
Word War II, which appeared even before it was over, as well as the posthumously
published book on the Caucasian Wars, which still remains the most important
contribution to this critical subject. He was responsible for the first – and still only
–translations into Russian of essential works by Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, Emily
Bronte, Anatole France, Prosper Merimee, Gerard de Nerval, Bernard Berenson,
William Beckford, and the novellas of the Italian Renaissance. He was among the
first twentieth century writers in the genre of magical realism, a fact that prompted
contemporary literary critic (Aleksej Arseniev, Belgrade) to dub him ≪the Russian
And yet, despite all these formidable accomplishments, his name was practically
forgotten for many decades. Perhaps it was his very versatility that might have been
partly responsible for this neglect. Many found it inconceivable that the elegant and
refined author of Images of Italy and the precise and erudite historian of the Caucasian
Battlefields: A History of the wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828-
1921, might be one and the same person. As the critic Clive James noted, ≪Paul
Pavlovitch Muratov shows just how brilliant somebody can be and still be a forgotten
To be sure, one could hardly expect a new edition of Images of Italy to appear in
the Soviet Union at a time when certain Russian critics of the 1930s characterized
the work as ‘the product of a bourgeois lyrical spirit’. The fact of his emigration naturally
earned him the stigma of an ‘enemy of the people’. And, finally, his journalistic
and publicistic writings – especially prolific in the 1930s – had a strong
anti-Bolshevik slant.
With the 1960s, however, changes in the political climate eventually led to a reconsideration
of the achievements of Russian emigre culture. In 1981, on the initiative
of the late Igor’ Chabarov, the Central House of Artists in Moscow organized a
memorial evening commemorating the centenary of Pavel Muratov’s birth. My parents
were invited and assigned center front row seats. Around 1983-1984, the art
historian Viktor Graščenkov began planning a new edition of the Images of Italy,
that appeared in 1993-1994 as a two–volume set.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the first posthumous edition of Images of
Italy had already appeared earlier, in 1972, in a Polish translation. This was the work
of Paweł Hertz, who during the Second World War was among the thousands of
Poles who were evacuated to Kazachstan and Siberia. It was there that Hertz found
the first edition of Muratov’s book in a local library. Entranced by the quality of the
writing and the refined brilliance of thought, he translated the Images into Polish,
accompanying the text with fine art-historical commentary. The first edition of this
translation appeared in Warsaw, followed by a second in 1988. New Polish editions
subsequently appeared between 2008 and 2013.
Interestingly, there is a mysterious back story to the Polish appearance of Images
of Italy that makes it not entirely a matter of chance. Pavel Muratov’s mother was
Polish by origin and his older brother, Vladimir, was born in Mienzeszec,2 near Warsaw.
Muratov’s father’s uncle was the Polish count Andrej Gudovič, a famous general
of the Napoleonic wars, and the Muratovs were always proud of this kinship.
Pavel Muratov, however, was in Poland for the first and only time at the beginning
of the First World War, when he served as an officer on the Western Front. Muratov’s
work left a powerful impression on the writings of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz and the
compositions of Karol Szymanowski, though it appears that neither was personally
acquainted with Muratov. Such, at least, are the few facts and legends of family history
and testimonies of his artistic and literary impact. And yet, there is something
strangely magical about this Polish emergence and renaissance of Muratov’s Italian
book after so many years of oblivion.
As to the new Russian edition, almost fifty years had passed since 1924, when the
Gržebin Publishing House in Berlin had published the complete version of Images
of Italy. The appearance of this edition represented a triumph for the members of
the Muratov family – in Russia and abroad – and for the old admirers and connoisseurs
of Muratov’s prose. But for the new generations of readers it was not as great
a discovery as might have been had its appearance not coincided with the enormous
flood of books banned before 1992 that now inundated the shelves of Russian bookstores.
Russia suddenly discovered its emigre poets, writers, and philosophers; it encountered
for the first time new Western writers and thinkers in translation. Books
about Italy, much simpler for new readers lacking the necessary cultural preparation,
sprouted like mushrooms; Russians were finally able to travel to the West. Images
of Italy found a rather modest niche in this crowded field, but it continued to be republished,
though rather unpredictably and unevenly. The essential and most crucial
thing, of course, was that the book was now once again read, that is: it continued to
On the other hand, Pavel Muratov’s colossal ‘oeuvre’ – his remarkable achievement
– remained almost entirely unknown. William Allen, Muratov’s close friend
and co-author late in life, noted in his obituary that the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s were
the writer’s most powerful and creative years. In 2002 the first comprehensive bibliography
of the author’s oeuvre was attempted by Patrizia Deotto, then a young
student, and now a professor at the University of Trieste.3 It ran to over three thousand
titles. The list is still incomplete, and his writings still await scholarly study,
2 The toponym Mienzeszec, given by the Author, does not correspond to any location in Poland. It
might refer to Miedzeszyn, a village then situated near Warsaw, now incorporated into the Wawel
district, in the south-eastern part of Warsaw; or the city of Międzyrzec Podlaski, just 100 km from
Warsaw (the Russian variant of the toponym Мензежицы (Menzežicy) – the closest to the name
used by the Author).
3 P. Deotto, Bibliografija P. P. Muratova, in Archivio italo-russo II / Russko-ital’janskij Archiv II, a
cura di D. Rizzi e A. Shishkin, Salerno 2002, pp. 365-394.
evaluation, and classification, so that they might find their proper place in the cultural
history of the twentieth century.
The towering scale and multiple dimensions of this many-sided figure are only
now becoming apparent and their rich depth and complexity are yet to be fully assessed.
Muratov was not only a specialist of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque,
but also of Russian medieval art and the Russian icon, which he was the first to ‘discover’
as an aesthetic phenomenon. A military man who served as an artillery officer
during the First World War, he was also an art critic, a creative writer, translator,
playwright, editor, publicist, journalist, and military historian.
Studies of Muratov’s work have now begun to emerge. It is significant that they
are linked with Italy, Muratov’s ‘spiritual homeland’, which has never completely
forgotten him. Ettore Lo Gatto and Olga Signorelli4 give him a place in their memories.
Untimely death prevented Angelo Maria Ripellino from realizing his project
of translating Images of Italy into Italian. Piero Cazzola mentioned Muratov in all
his works on Italian journeys, and spurred several students and young Slavists to
take an interest in this singular Russian scholar and writer. In the 1970s Georges de
Canino assembled the precious materials and archives of Edita Broglio5 that made
it possible to illuminate a significant aspect of Muratov’s activity: his collaboration
with Mario Broglio, founder of the art movement and Italian magazine ≪Valori plastici
≫ (1918-1922) whose eponymous publishing house published Muratov’s important
monographs on Byzantine painting, Fra Angelico, and French Gothic sculpture.
A number of Italian scholars (Ettore Lo Gatto, Piero Cazzola, Marina Rossi Varese,
Laura Ferrari, Federica Rossi) translated excerpts from Images of Italy into Italian.
Muratov’s biographical sketch was included in the Internet database and website
Russi in Italia ( a unique resource documenting the contributions
of Russians to Italian culture and studies. In Italy, scholarly research dedicated to
Muratov’s legacy has been nearly exclusively the work of Slavic philologists rather
than art historians, with numerous Italian PhD students of Russian literature focusing
on various aspects of Images of Italy.
In Russia a desire to acquaint the general public with this highly original representative
of early twentieth century Russian culture led to the organization of an important
exhibition dedicated to Pavel Pavlovitch Muratov at the Puškin State
4 Of the numerous works dedicated to the study of Muratov, we confine ourselves to note only the
following: E. Lo Gatto. Russi in Italia. Dal secolo XVII ad oggi. Roma 1971, pp. 256-261; Iz vospominanij
O. Resnevič-Sin’orelli o P. P. Muratove, in Archivio russo-italiano IX. Ol’ga Resnevič Signorelli
e l’emigrazione russa / Russko-ital’janskij archiv IX. O’lga Resnevič-Sin’orelli i russkaja
emigracija, v. II, a cura di E. Garetto, A. d’Amelia, K. Kumpan e D. Rizzi, Salerno 2012, pp. 116-
118; Pis’ma P. P. Muratova (1923-1926), publ. P. Deotto i E. Garetto, ivi, pp. 89-115.
5 These materials are currently in the holdings of Fondo Valori Plastici, at the Galleria Nazionale di
Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome. See infra, pp. 32-33.
Overview of Muratov Studies and Activities of the “Centro Internazionale di Studi Pavel Muratov” 91
Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. In 2004-2005 I undertook the organization of this
exhibition with the collaboration of the Moscow art historian Gerol’d Vzdornov and
the support of Irina Antonova, the Director of the Museum and her staff. The exhibition,
entitled “Pavel Muratov – Man of the Silver Age”, officially opened on 3
March 2008, on Muratov’s birthday. Located on the first floor of the Museum, in
the galleries off the grand staircase, the exhibit comprised documents, photographs,
and archival materials, various editions of Muratov’s most important books, other
publications including the magnificent Russian art journals in which Muratov published
his essays, as well as the art and literary journal ≪Sofija≫, which Muratov
edited in the years before the First World War.6 Also included were several of the
Museum’s Italian paintings, which Muratov had studied and attributed early in his
career as art historian; icons from the Tret’jakov Gallery which he had studied; some
of his favorite Piranesi etchings about which he wrote in various works. There was
also a considerable number of art works, such as the paintings by Petr Končalovskij
that the artist had given Pavel Muratov and that I subsequently donated to the
Moscow Museum of Private Collections; drawings and paintings by Russian artists
which Muratov discussed in various articles, essays, and books, including: Nesterov,
Borisov-Musatov, Krymov, his close friend Nikolaj Ul’janov – author of several
pencil portraits of Muratov. Finally, there were the Cezanne paintings from the
Ščukin collection to which Muratov had dedicated several essays and a slim, but
substantive monograph that he published before leaving Russia.
A two-days symposium was organized around the exhibit, dedicated to the study
of Muratov’s work. The proceedings of this symposium were published some months
later, edited by Gerol’d Vzdornov and myself under the title Vozvraščenie Muratova.
Ot ≪Obrazov Italii≫ do ≫Istorii kavkazskich voin≫ (The Return of Muratov. From
≪Images of Italy≫ to the ≪History of Caucasian Wars≫), sponsored by Aleksandr and
Vera Žukov. The publication of this volume was marked by a celebration held in the
Museum in the autumn of the same year. These events and activities marked the return
of Muratov to his homeland and signaled the beginning of Russian research
into Muratov.
The events in Moscow coincided with various international colloquia and symposia
where his name began to figure prominently. These included: in 2006, an international
colloquium in Rome dedicated to the 150 anniversary of Adolfo Venturi;
in 2009, a symposium on Russian culture at the University of Lausanne; in 2010,
the major exhibition “La Sainte Russie” at the Louvre Museum in Paris, accompanied
by a symposium at which I presented a paper on Pavel Muratov’s seminal
work on establishing the aesthetic value of the Russian icon. This particular aspect
6 ≪Sofija. Žurnal iskusstva i literatury≫ – a monthly journal published in Moscow in 1914. Only numbers
1-6 (January-June) appeared.
of Muratov’s work subsequently became a focal topic for scholarly study by G. Vzdornov,
O. Tarasov, I. Foletti, and myself.
The year 2011, officially proclaimed “The Year of Russian Culture in Italy and
Year of Italian Culture in Russia”, again brought Muratov to the attention of the academic
and general public. In his remarks at the opening of the Russian Icon exhibit
in Florence, Giorgio Napolitano, then President of the Italian Republic, spoke of
Pavel Muratov as one of the most important figures in the history of Russo-Italian
cultural relations.
The time had come for a systematic initiative to preserve and protect the legacy
of Pavel Muratov and to bring his work and thought to the attention of a greater general
public and community of scholars. This was the genesis for the project of establishing
the Muratov Foundation. Its mandate would be to promote the study of
his work, the preservation of his legacy, and the conservation of the archives and
belongings of Muratov’s family as representative of the most refined, cultivated,
and highly European side of Russian culture. This Foundation would celebrate the
cultural achievements and values of Russia as represented, on a global stage, by an
exceptional and original personality dedicated to valorizing our collective cultural
heritage, whose study would proceed through multiple academic disciplines and
through the fields of art, culture and history.
As it happened, I myself had no experience in organizing an institution of the kind
we envisioned. Finding financial sponsorship proved to be exceedingly challenging,
devouring years of reaching out to potential donors, who have yet to materialize.
My dream of a Muratov Centre with a museum and library, an ‘incubator’ for students
of Muratov, a generator and host of symposia, colloquia, and exhibits, a publication
program, and a website – seemed at times unrealizable.
Despite the lack of funding, however, a group of ‘enthusiasts’ succeeded in establishing
the Association “Centro Internazionale di Studi Paolo Muratov”7 in Rome
in December, 2012. The founding members were professor Valentino Pace, professoressa
Rita Giuliani, maestro Georges de Canino, and myself. I became the president
of the Centro.
The aim of the Centro and its activities from 2012 till now are described in the attached
program.8 The highlights of this activity are as follows: an evening dedicated
to the opening of the Aleksandr Solženicyn House of Russia Abroad (2012) (at which
7 The precise and original name of the organization is “Liberassociazione Paolo Muratov”, but Xenia
preferred to refer to it as “Centro Internazionale di Studi Pavel Muratov” (“Pavel Muratov International
Centre of Studies”, as it was called in the official prospectus of November 14, 2016; or, literally,
“International Centre for the Study of Pavel Muratov”).
8 See The Pavel Muratov International Centre of Studies, infra, pp. 97-104. The prospectus is reproduced
in its original form as presented at the 2016 ASEEES.
extracts from Images of Italy were read by the celebrated actress Alla Demidova);
round table and photographic exhibition dedicated to Muratov’s work and organized
in collaboration with the association “Amici dei Musei di Roma” and the Russian
Centre of Science and Culture in Rome (2013); an evening entitled “The Writer in
War” with readings from memoirs recounting Muratov’s participation in the campaign
of the First World War, held at the residence of the Russian Ambassador to
France (2014); a literary evening of readings from Images of Italy at the theatre of
the Russian Embassy’s Villa Abamelek in Rome (2014); a meeting of the Circolo
Russistico Romano where I lectured on Pavel Muratov’s critical essays and reviews
of modern art (2016).
A panel dedicated to Muratov at the International Convention of the Association
for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies in Washington, D. C. (2016) attested
to a growing international interest in the multi-faceted work of Pavel Muratov and
the importance of studies dedicated to the various aspects of his versatile genius.
The Centro Internazionale di Studi Paolo Muratov was instrumental in the publication
of new editions of Images of Italy in Russia and in Poland; republication of
articles and essays originally published in the Russian emigre press of the 1920s and
1930s in the cultural magazine ≪Naše nasledie≫ in 2012 and 2014,9 as well as numerous
papers presented and published by members of the Centro Muratov in Russia,
Italy, and France (R. Giuliani, L. Lencek, P. Deotto, X. Muratova, G. Baselica,
A. Pagliaroli, I. Vaganova and others). Muratov and the Centro Muratov were featured
in several interviews, radio programs, and articles in the press in Russia, Italy,
France and the United States. Significant research activity into Muratov’s life, work,
and cultural impact has been undertaken in archives in France, Russia, England, and
the United States. A new translation into English of Muratov’s Images of Italy, by
professor Lena Lencek, is forthcoming in Northwestern University Press, with my
biographical sketch and introduction by professor Jenifer Presto. Muratov receives
attention in a number of recent books, including: Irina Vaganova’s From Florence
to Jaroslavl (2016);10 Ivan Foletti’s book on the ‘invention’ of the icon (2013),11
Oleg Tarasov’s Modern i drevnie ikony (2016)12. In my own books − Venere russa
9 K. Muratova, ≪Každyj den’≫ P. P. Muratova-kolumnista, ≪Naše Nasledie≫, 104 (2012),; P. Muratov, Stat’i i očerki (1927–1931 gg.), publik.
i komment. K. M. Muratovoj, ivi,; Pavel
Muratov – kolumnist gazety ≪Vozroždenie≫. Čast’ II, podgot. teksta i comment. K. M. Muratovoj,
≪Naše Nasledie≫, 108 (2014), (accessed October
28, 2020).
10 I. V. Vaganova, Ot Florencii do Jaroslavlja / From Florence to Yaroslavl, Rybinsk 2015.
11 Probably: I. Foletti, Da Bisanzio alla Santa Russia. Nikodim Kondakov (1844-1925) e la nascita
della storia dell’arte in Russia, Roma 2011.
12 O. Ju. Tarasov, Modern i drevnie ikony. Ot svjatyni k šedevru. Očerk, M. 2016.
(2014) and La Russie inconnue (2015)13 and at the conference dedicated to Michel
Vinaver14 in Moscow (2015) – I speak of Muratov’s role as an internationally acknowledged
authority on the icon and his importance as an art critic of his time. This
latter aspect of Muratov’s activity was especially prominent in the preparation of the
Ščukin Collection Exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2016-2017)
where the entrance to the galleries features a wall inscription taken from, among others,
Muratov, the first art critic to have written about this collection in 1908.
In 2016, the Milan publishing house Adelphi Edizioni signed a contract with me
for the translation of Images of Italy into Italian.15 It is now the turn of English16
and French translators to complete their projects of bringing this work to their respective
audiences. An earlier attempt at an English translation of Images of Italy
was made in 1913, immediately after the appearance of the book itself, as evidenced
by the copy of Images of Italy in the holdings of the New York Public Library. This
book had belonged to Princess Marija Gagarina who corresponded with the author
about her proposed translation of the Images into English. Her husband, Prince Aleksandr
Gagarin, Russian consul to Italy and later to Spain, and an accomplished photographer,
prepared a suite of photographs of Italian views for this English edition.
The outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, halted progress
on the project.17
The translation of this Muratov’s most celebrated work into English and French
became the highest priority of the Centro Muratov during the coming year, as well
as the creation of the official interactive website, and the future “Letture Muratoviane
/ Muratovskie Čtenija / Muratov Readings” – conferences devoted to Muratov
studies – in Naples (2017) and future sites and years.
13 X. Muratova, Venere Russa. Fascino femminile nell’arte russa del Novecento. Collezione Tat’jana
e Georgij Khatsenkov = Russkaja Venera. Ženskie obrazy v russkom iskusstve XX veka. Kollekcija
Tat’jany i Georgija Chacenkovych, Cinisello Balsamo 2014; La Russie inconnue. Art russe de la
premiere moitie du XXe siecle. Paris – Monaco – Riviera. Chefs-d’oeuvre de la Collection Tatiana
et Georges Khatsenkov, Cinisello Balsamo 2015; [Russian edition: Neizvestnaja Rossija. Russkoe
iskusstvo pervoj poloviny XX veka. Pariž – Monaco – Riviera. Šedevry kollekcii Tat'jany i Georgija
Chacenkovych, Cinisello Balsamo 2015].
14 Pseudonym of Michel Grinberg (b. 1927), French writer and playwright; cf. https://www.institutfrancais.
ru/fr/moscou/loeuvre-michel-vinaver-entre-france-lamerique-russie (accessed October 28,
15 P. Muratov, Immagini dell’Italia, trad. di A. Romano, a cura di R. Giuliani, con un saggio di K. Petrowskaja,
v. I, Milano 2019; v. II, trad. di A. Romano, a cura di R. Giuliani, Milano 2021.
16 P. P. Muratov, Visions of Italy, preface X. Muratova, introd. J. Presto, transl., notes & afterword L.
M. Lencek, Evanston (ILL) 2022.
17 Xenia Muratova’s presentation at the “Letture Muratoviane III” (“Third Muratov Readings”) was
dedicated to this translation. It was entitled: “Immagini d’Italia” della principessa Marija Gagarina:
il primo tentativo di traduzione dell’opera di Muratov in inglese e della sua diffusione nel mondo
(1913). The text of the presentation has not been located.

bottom of page