Friday, April 25, 2008



To the Esteemed Vasiléi Ermenevich,

I‘m sending you my regards from Rome where I have been living for the past two weeks. The weather is warm but it feels more like real summer; all its green, lots of flowers and a beautiful and warm sunshine. I haven’t yet found a studio for rent; I’ll wait until June or July when most painters leave for the summer leaving their ateliers behind.
I’d like to paint in an open sky, therefore, I decided to spend the summer period in the isle of Capri.
As yet, I didn’t choose the subject and, to tell the truth, I didn’t have time to look for one. From January I have so many sensations which I can hardly understand.
When the time will come to develop the painting, I’ll describe you the subject in details and, as we agreed, I’ll also enclose to the letter, the draft or the outline.
I’ll now describe you my trip to Rome:
At the end of January I left St. Petersburg headed to Berlin, where I stayed for twelve days; there I had some strong and beautiful feelings about the old masters exposed at the Fredrick’s Museum. In Dresden I felt like I was an unbelievably happy person just to be able to watch the famous Gallery and the feelings it transmitted me. I enjoyed looking until I was fully satisfied.
In München was not the same. I left it without having any special feelings of its Galleries and the town itself.
I got in Verona, Italy, my first Italian city, late at night. I visited the city in every possible way I could and told her “goodbye” forever.
I stayed in Venice for a week then went to Florence, and also visited the surrounding areas, then to Rome where I was given free tickets to visit the museums and the Vatican Galleries.
I haven’t been to visit Mr. Bakalovich yet.
At the moment its very hard to find a studio and its not even yet the right time to look for one, so, for the time being, I’m not working.
I read the Bible, from which I’ll find the right subject. It should be much more accurate than looking around to find a Roman type individual for the purpose.

I’ll leave you until the next letter.
I wish you good health.

My address is: Via Margutta n.7 – c/o Pascalini – G. Maltzeff
My wife sends her regards

With respect,

G. Maltzeff – Rome, April 3rd , 1914


Distinguished Vasiléi Ermenevich!

I’m sending you this second letter which is first one I wrote from Rome. Now from the Isle of Capri where, I think, will stay until August before going back to Rome to the “winter palace”.
Here I found the suitable scenery I was looking for the painting I have in mind. The landscape its not fantastic due to the lack of vegetation. Instead, has rocky beaches.
It’s a shame you are so far. Its hard for me to explain, with a letter, the chaos of thoughts and the many uncertainties and questions, I have, awaiting for an answer.
I’m taking the subject from the Bible. When God punishes, by sending famine, the Jewish people for despising the law, and to the Prophet Elias, alive at the time, ordering him to go to the Chorafa creek. Elias arrived at the time of the famine: “… craws brought him, in the morning and in the evening, bread and meat and had drinking water from the creek…” (from the Book of the Kings, chapter 18).

I mentally picture it like this: in the middle of a rocky landscape on the banks of the creek, he is leaning on a rock and not sitting like I first wanted to; also the expression and the hands movements express sadness and even desperation. How many times he warned them of their transgression but nor the people nor the rulers did listen to the words of God. Now they suffer the catastrophe and Elias is saddened for his people. The craws, the dusk and the desert, represent his state of mind. The prophet’s figure its all absorbed within himself as not to see the craws anymore.
The problem seems to be exclusively in the figure.
I pray you to express your opinion regarding the subject and the interpretation which, from a country of pleasure and happiness, its hard to even think of such a sad theme.
This remains one of my main doubts!
Here, at Capri, I have a very large room with a terrace and can, therefore, paint nature in the open air.
There is a character over here, an old Italian fisherman. Shall we say: a “biblical type”: with big shoulders and long gray hair.

I’ll be waiting for your letters.

My address is: Italy, Capri, Hotel Centrale, Painter Gregorius Maltzeff.
My wife and I send you our best wishes and wish you good health.

With Respect

G. Maltzeff - Capri - May 7th, 1914


Vasiléi Ermenevich if you don’t have anything against the subject, now or in the future, I’ll mail you a large sketch. For the time being I’m only sending you the outline. The left-hand elbow is resting on the rock while the hand touches the forehead. On the right are black craws.
For the time being I would like you to be the only one to know about this project.

No Date


Distinguished Vasiléi Ermenevich!

Its been just about a month when I’ve send you my last letter, in which I begged you to answer but I didn’t get any answer as yet. I’ve sent the letter as “registered” so you must have received it by now. In the letter I told you about my subject, on which I’m now working, and have attached a sketched-note on which is portrayed the prophet Elias, sitting on the rock in the desert next to the Chorafa creek: “… and the crows brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening…” – Bible – Book of the Kings, chapter 18.
Since I’ve send you the sketch, I though over the subject and modified it. Now the prophet is standing and not sitting anymore as he was before.
When the weather gets bad, I always write and sketch the old man’s head. I didn’t start drawing the background landscape nor the figure itself yet.
I’m waiting for your letter and beg you to send it “registered” and not by regular mail.

My address is: Italy, Capri, Hotel Centrale, Painter Gregorius Maltzeff.
We send you our regards from marvelous Italy and wish you a good health.

G. and Marussia Maltzeff - Capri - June/July, 1914


Distinguished Vasiléi Ermenevich!

I have received your letter in Capri at the same time I mailing you mine.

I’m very glad that my painting will be due in two years, and not in one, as it was erroneously written on my instructions letter. Tikov, who now lives in Paris and exchanges letters with me, has cleared the mistake.

On August 2nd, I have moved from Capri back to Rome with the hope of finding a studio. We are now going trough a bad period and I’m worried about renting the place since my finances are low. When will the money arrive from Russia?

No one even knows if Italy will take part in the war. In case Italy will take part in it, wouldn’t it be batter for me to go back to Russia? Or only God knows where to go!
Today, out of good luck, I managed to mail a letter to the Treasurer’s Office concerning money. Will the letter ever reach its final destination? No one knows!
I begged the Russian General Consulate to sent me my check and told them that my residence is still in Rome.
If my letter should not reach the Imperial Art Academy Committee then I humbly ask you to remind the committee of my existence; you have my address. You well know that a great deal of Russians travelers found themselves in hard situations and without money as well. The train return tickets, through Austria are not valid anymore and found themselves in a “no return” situation.
The only way to go back home, at the present time, is to go through Constantinople.
With, more or less, a hundred francs, is now staying in Rome for an unknown period of time, Prof. Kowalski of the Architectural Academy.
My personal situation seems to be one of the best since my wife, during our staying in Capri, used to cook meals at home, instead of going to restaurants, therefore we managed to save quite some money. In any case I am able to survive two or three months with my present resources available.
Regarding the studios: I don’t know how they were in your times but, now, Rome’s studios are beyond decency and the rent prices are illegal or, maybe, since Rome doesn’t have many of them, and since they are very practical for an artist, the rents are high therefore its more convenient to visit foreign painters who already got settled or go visit our Italian colleagues.
For the time being, I’m hastily ending my letter and will get back on the argument again.

As it is for now, my wife and I salute you with the best regards.

G. Maltzeff

PS. I went to see Father Flerov of whom I had a wonderful impression; an unwavering spirit lives within him. I can say, in a word, that you can see all the spirit of Russia. He also sends his regards.
Rome - August 4th, 1914


Distinguished Vasiléi Ermenevich!

I have recently mailed you a “registered” letter just in case you didn’t receive the previous one (which, at the present times, could be quite possible). I’m send it through a fellow countryman: Mrs. Antonova who has graduated from the Italian Fine Arts Academy is leaving, with the last ship, from Brindisi to Constantinople then to Russia. In Rome, only people who have some business will remain. Of us people, of the Imperial Art Academy, only two remain: Architect Kowalski, husband of Mrs. Antonova, and me and my wife. If the Academy doesn’t order us otherwise we’ll gladly remain in Rome where the Italians treat, us Russians, in a marvelous way but are, on the contrary, very harsh toward the Germans.
I have enough money for another two or three month, maybe more. In a few days I will rent a studio where I’ll start working on the painting again.
I like Rome very much; much more than I did in the beginning.
After I set up the studio, the furnishing and all the rest, I will most likely, risk of loosing everything if the Academy will cut my check and call me back home, but, on the other hand to live in a room, not having the chance of a full time, steady job, would be hard on me, risking all I have, like many others risk in this unusual times.
Three or four days ago, a telegram from the Secretary of the Imperial Art Academy, Mr. Loibakov, was received by the General Russian Consulate. He wanted to know how many Russian Academy professors are still in Rome. The answer was obvious: architect Kowalski and painter Maltzeff. At the same time, with the “registered” letter I’ve sent you, I also sent one to the Painting Academy’s Corporate Committee begging them to send me the check in Rome.
In case the letter didn’t reach the Academy, I enclose with yours, a copy which I kindly ask you to send to the Committee.
Today I went to the Consulate where Mr. Sabello, the Russian consul in Rome, said that us Academics and all the Russians, residing abroad for working reasons, will have to go back home when requested to… and I’ m afraid we will!
We have no news from Russia whatsoever. Even if we had some, they would probably be from German sources.
I send you my regards for an indeterminate time since, maybe, not even the most farsighted politicians can’t say for how long or how short.

My wife and I wish you good health and all the best.

G. Maltzeff - Rome - August 6th, 1914


Distinguished Vasiléi Ermenevich!

After a short time I began my last letter, I moved into my new studio, which I found not without some difficulty, in a very nice part of Rome. Its only a five minutes walk from Villa Borghese, in the alley of Via St. Nicola da Tolentino.
The studio itself its not that large but has a skylight on the roof and big windows on the sides, a pleasant light… not a penetrating one.
At first I wanted to start painting nature, but it wasn't possible since I saw some interesting models. I have elaborated my first works. I lengthily worked out, in great details and with perseverance, portraits of males and females. I actually wanted to complete them to a greater degree, in which I succeeded, but only in working out the details, but not the 'whole' (the first burnt pancakes).
I paint nature all day long from 08,00 in the morning until noon and from 14,00 to 17,00, which its expensive, but I manage, thanks to my wife’s financial plan on saving money.
How beautiful the dark eyed girls are. I have to begin portraying them.
Rome is beautiful in the fall! The weather is warm, it rain, then its warm again and the air its clean. Every day that goes by, makes me love Rome more and more. Actually, in the beginning, it didn’t attract me as much as it does now. The pleasantness of the Italians is all for the Russians since they despise the Germans.
Of the Italian language, I only know a few essential words. Just enough to survive while, my wife, has outmatched me since she has an excellent memory, intuition and keen domestic know-how.
The studio was rented to me completely empty, so I had to furnish it completely. I bought drapes, the mannequin and very soon it will start looking like the studio I had at the Academy.
I would like to know how my other rival colleagues are doing with their trades.
I don’t have the faintest idea if the letters reach Rome from Russia, since I send mine through the Consular courier.

My wife and I send our best regards wishing you good health.

PS. In Rome there are three academics beside me: Kardovsky, Yacovlev, and architect Kovalsky!

The below pencil notes reads:

Gregorij Maltzeff and Marussia Fiodorvna Azarova

Rome - November 3rd, 1914.


Dear Vasiléi Ermenevich,

You can’t even imagine how happy I was when I read on the Italian newspaper “IL GIORNO” (November 5th), that Stiepaskin was sent abroad. May God grant him the success he deserves!
Up to now I don’t know the fate of my other colleagues; which painting Stiepaskin was working on when he won the prize since the competitions results , in the Russian newspapers, are never mentioned. Just by chance I noticed some photographs of Jevreinov and Lievandowsky.
As it is for me, I’m suffering, as I was suffering, before I won the “Prix de Rom”.
I’m still working (besides the prophet Elias) on a new subject taken from the Roman Forums: the medieval Italian poet Petrarca, already famous at the time, has never been in Rome. He never had a chance to see the ancient Roman ruins he so long dreamed of.
It was the year 1337, when Petrarca finally reached the eternal city. History tells us that, Petrarca, spent days roaming around the ancient Roman ruins accompanied by high ranking nobles of the Colonna family. I already have a painting of the poet. I only have to place him on a side of the forum, as it was in his times: a place to pasture sheep, scattered with various remains and columns. I visualize him as looking at the marble remains where he could still see the inscriptions: “SENATUS PO…” and other broken letters. Behind him, two persons are standing on a huge marble column. In the background, the remains of an old brick wall covered with ivy. Other figures, standing in the background, lighten only by a feeble sunset. Between the columns, in order to have some contrast and despite the historic facts, I will place some cows in the painting.
I please ask you to reply me your opinion as soon as you get this letter.

My wife and I send you the best wishes for a happy new year and for a good health.
Please present my regards to my colleagues.
I’ll be waiting for your reply

With respect,

G. Maltzeff - Rome, 1914.


Dear Vasiléi Ermenevich,

it will soon be a year since I don’t receive any of your mail. How is your health doing? Are you very busy?
I gave my last letter, to be delivered to you, in January of this year to an acquaintance of mine who was leaving Rocca Priora, heading for St. Petersburg. I then proposed you with project for my painting and a small sketch which were both mailed with the letter, but after two/three weeks, I changed my mind and regret to have send you the material since I have found another subject which interests me more and which I worked on for the whole winter period and part of the spring season. I’m now making sketches which will be partly ready for November in which time I’m also hoping to have the big canvas done.
I don’t want to bother you by explaining my numerous subjects I have in mind. In mid-summer I’ll send you, when the painting will start to take shape, a large sketch (not like the small one I sent you previously). The subject is about a legend, in the first centuries of Christianity in ancient Rome (IV century). Its about St. Agnes. Her catacomb, if you recall, is located on the Via Nomentana, close to Porta Pia.
Work is proceeding well and the subject always interests me.
I would like to know where Stiepaskin lives or where could I write him. I often think about my colleagues and how we used to work together in the Academy’s art shop.
Because of the war, painters are left with few commissions. The Germans painters are gone and so are the French. There are only a few English and Italian left, and only three of us Russians. Maybe the war didn’t reach Italy but we started eating “war bread” since March.

Please give my regards to Pavil Petrovich.

My wife and I send you our best wishes. I’ll be glad to hear a few words from you. I now feel sad about Russia.

Yours devoted G. Maltzeff

My address is: Italy, Rome - Vicolo St. Nicola da Tolentino n.13 - Painter Gregorius Maltzeff

I’ll send this letter at the first chance I get. G. M.

Rome - April 6th, 1915.


Dear Vasiléi Ermenevich,

Two years in Rome already flew by fast!!
I hope you received the letters in which I wrote about the painting. The first time I wrote you it was about the religious theme: St. Agnes when, after her death as a martyr, appears to her parents. I have spent, working on the painting, all spring and summertime in Rome. The painting just wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to and wasn’t satisfied at all with it, but I kept persevering until I found myself working from 06,00 in the morning, all day long, until late evening. Only the last month it started taking the shape of a religious painting. I should be done by the beginning of November. The first impression its quite weak, but the spiritual emotions of the figure, as they say here, are pretty well caught. On the tenth of November, I’ll send you the painting’s photograph and pray you to make a report to be sent to the Imperial Art Academy. I don’t know if they’ll extend my Rome assignment for another two years although I would like to remain in Rome even at my own risk. I have money until next January. My painting has quite “solid” dimensions and it would be, as it is now, a risk to have it delivered to Russia. I don’t even have the financial possibility even if I wanted to do so, besides I don’t have any business
whatsoever to attend in Russia . My colleague, A. Yakovlev (of the Kardovsky studio) is returning to Russia within a few days and he’s taking his painting back with him; it’s a small painting and expensive to ship, but he doesn’t seem to care too much.
Anyhow if necessity will arise, I pray your brokerage regarding the Academy.
I’m waiting for your letter and, maybe, some instructions.
I wish you a good “competition” regarding the upcoming 4th, November.
Once again my wife and I, wish you all the best.
Once again I pray you to answer my letter as soon as you receive it.

Your devoted

G. Maltzeff

My address: Italy - Rome - Via Corso Umberto, 1 - studio n.4

PS. My studio is the best in town. Its located inside the residence of Prince Borghese at the beginning of the Corso close to Piazza del Popolo. One huge window and an enormous terrace, bigger than the whole studio itself, give right on the Pincio Gardens . The contract will expire next September.
Rome - October 14th, 1915


Esteemed Vasiléi Ermenevich,

I don’t know were this letter will reach you, therefore I’m sending it to your old address.
This spring will be eight years I’m in Italy and, so far, I never suffered hunger, but I’ll rather suffer it and to back home, to Russia.
I would have been back by now, but I have two small children: a girl, Varvara, who is five y.o. and a boy, Nikita, who is three. I’m waiting for a better period to go back to my country. I’m so homesick that I decided to go back this coming spring or summer. First stop in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) then, if possible, towards the Volga river. If this letter reaches you, please answer promptly. I will write you a detailed letter and pray you to give me essential information concerning my return to Russia.
The colleagues, here in Rome, are working as employee at the Russian Emigrates Mission.
I’m preparing a chapel in Jerusalem: painting icons, carving wood, work with gold, etc.
To my former professor
Vasiléi Ermenevich Savinski.

My address is: Italy - Rome - Corso Umberto I, n.4 - Gregorius Maltzeff Studio

Rome - January 22nd, 1922


Dear Vasiléi Ermenevich,

I was very happy to receive a letter from Micha Platonov, knowing that my letter has reached finally you!
Your address was unknown to me and still is. Anyhow I’m sending the mail to the Academy which, as I heard, doesn’t exist any more. Please don’t get upset if I inquire for your precise address, if you wish, that is, to receive my news once in a while.
Even M. Platonov has written me, but didn’t give me his address, which I would also like to have and to to know how our Academy lab colleagues are doing.
I avoid all politics as much as possible and earn my money, exclusively, through my art work: paintings and some sculpture. My studio it’s a small corner of Rome which is visited frequently, and happily, by the Russian community. This spring I have a lot of “nostalgia” for my home country, my old father is still there, and was seriously thinking of leaving, but the news from Russia are not good so I have to postpone my departure until better times arrive.
In his letter, Platov, has seriously reprimanded me, admitting that the desire to see the native places, sometimes, is weaker than a hungry man who wants to eat especially for us who, thanked God, have food. With your permission I’ll write you since I can now send you return prepaid postcard which are cheaper here in Italy.
Don’t get upset for the food I’ve sent you, everything its cheaper here. I’ve sent the same to quite a few friend and relatives back home.
Let me know as soon as you get the parcel, I can send you one every month. Please write.

With all due respect.

G. Maltzeff - My wife, M.F. sends her best.

Rome - No date