The collection of Flemish paintings (in Russian the term is as inclusive as the Italian ‘fiamminghi’ and the French ‘flamand’) is one of the unheralded strengths of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. In the introduction to this catalogue of 300 paintings, Xenia Egorova explains that whereas the majority of these works have previously been published in the 1995 comprehensive catalogue of the museum’s paintings, this text is the first to include full-fledged entries, complete with provenance and bibliography. Despite the fact that these more recent entries are, like the 1995 publication, in Russian, a language not much practiced by historians of this material, the Pushkin Museum’s collection is so varied and so many of the works are illustrated in colour (albeit sometimes across the gutter) that the book proves to be a useful research tool, regardless of the language barrier.
Notwithstanding an impressive string of publications, the holdings of the Pushkin Museum are not well known, with the exception of the Impressionists. To this reader there were very welcome surprises _ Hans Bol’s View of Amsterdam on parchment, a Martin de Vos Coronation of the Virgin, two panels of Joseph of Arimathea and the Magdalene, surely by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, and numerous school of, studio, copies and question marks that are too often left unillustrated, and thus remain unknown to those scholars who do not habitually frequent photograph collections. Among the seventeenth-century artists, Van Dyck’s four portraits include the Double Portrait of Lady D’Aubigny and the Countess of Portland, while the most ambitious of Jordaens’s works is his 1640 Flight into Egypt. Rubens is represented by a 1615 Bacchanal and two oil sketches, a c.1631 Last Supper and the 1634 Apotheosis of the Infanta Isabella. Four of the five compositions by David Teniers II are reproduced in excellent colour, including a highstepping fool dancing with his doll. Finally among a small collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century works, Theo van Rysselberghe’s restrained pointillist vocabulary is effectively displayed in the dabs of green, violet and ochre that make up a small still life.
There is no summary in a western language, and artists are arranged according to the Cyrillic aphabet, but each name and title is transliterated into English, and an index of those names is provided. Non-Slavic bibliography is cited according to the original language. A very useful list of changes in attributions is given both in Russian and in English. While it is to be regretted that such a rich collection could not have been made more accessible with more extensive use of western European languages, the quality of the reproductions of such a vast array of pictorial material is reason enough to welcome this publication.
Nina E. Serebrennikov