La cathedrale de St. Isaac dalmate. Monferand arch. Photograph/St. Isaac's Cathedral/St. Petersburg, Ivan BIANCHI, Giovanni.
Early Russian Photography
St. Petersburg's Iconic St. Isaac's Cathedral
St. Petersburg, Giovanni Bianchi, c. 1870

La cathedrale de St. Isaac dalmate. Monferand arch.

Original albumen(?) print (27.5 cm x 37.5 cm) mounted on original cardboard (37 cm x 45 cm). Title in French and Russian printed on a label affixed to the bottom of the frame.

A very rare, original photograph of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, taken by Ivan (Giovanni) Bianchi (1811-1893) from the porch of the Mariinsky Theater. A native of Switzerland, Bianchi came to Russia at the age of ten and received education at the Institute of Painting and Sculpture in Moscow. In 1839, he left Russia to study abroad only to return 13 years later and to settle in St. Petersburg, where he became one of the most prominent photographic chroniclers of the people and architecture of the capital of the Russian Empire from the 1850s-1870s. In 1870, Bianchi exhibited his photography at the All-Russia Industrial and Art Exhibition in St. Petersburg, where his work earned him an honorable mention. In 1884, Bianchi returned to Switzerland, remaining there until his death in 1893. 

Bianchi's work has recently become a subject of several monographs. In 2014, the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow together with the Ivan Bianchi Archive in Locarno (Switzerland) organized a retrospective of Bianchi's extensive photographic heritage as part of the Moscow Biennale 2014.

St. Isaac's cathedral, designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand, took forty years (1818-1858) to build. Its dome, one of the first to have been constructed with an iron frame, later served as a model for the design of the United States Capitol dome. The cathedral's neoclassical exterior is built in the traditional Russian-Byzantine style with a cross-in-square ground plan and a large central dome with four smaller ones. Bianchi's photograph also captures the bronze equestrian monument to Nicholas I, one of only a handful of bronze statues in the world built with two support points (1859).

Albumen prints, popular between the 1850-1900, were produced by coating paper with a thin layer of egg-white (albumen) containing salt that made the prints glossy. Sometimes, like in the case of this photograph, the prints were toned with a gold solution, which gave them a brown tint and reduced the risk of fading.

*Redaelli, Squarci di storia pietroburghese e moscovita nelle immagini del fotografo Ivan Bianchi (2005); "Bianchi, Giovanni" in FotoCH.

Price: $1,450.00