The Igumnov House, general view

The Igumnov House, general view

Some of the most beautiful estates in Moscow remain inaccessible to the wide public. Such is  the Igumnov House on Yakimanka street. Known to every Moscovite, this extremely fancy venue is now property of France and is the official residence of the French ambassadors to Russia. The land originally belonged to the family of wealthy Russian merchants, the Igumnov family from the town of Yaroslavl’, where they owned a large textile factory.  Around 1885, Nikolai Igumnov initiated the construction of an extravagant family estate in Moscow. The design project was commissioned to Nikolai Posdeyev, the head architect of Yaroslavl’. The building was designed in the so-called Pseudo-Russian style. Its shapes and decorative forms resemble the Russian medieval chambers, partly inspired by the legendary Chamber Palace of the Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in Kolomenskoye (burnt down in the city fire in the 18th century).  The town of Yaroslavl’ is famous for its highly decorative ceramic tiles, lavishly used in most of its churches, and you can find plenty of these both in the exterior as well as the interior of the Igumnov house. It is indeed a fairylike house.  The interiors, however, are a mixture of the Russian and European classicism styles, which you don’t expect from the first glance at the exterior.

The house was admired by the French architects who had a chance to visit it at the end of the 19th century: “This house is one-of-a-kind. It challenges all the traditional perceptions. And yet, there is no way it could be redone without making it look silly, without interfering into its ancient appearance…”

The building was nationalized after 1917 and hosted a variety of public institutions. It was turned over to the French government in 1938. Since 1979 is has remained the official residence of the French ambassadors to Russia.

Adapted from:—rezidenciya-posla-francii.html

Where: Yakimanka street, 43, Moscow

Viewing: limited (options exist during the Moscow Embassies open days).

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