As we approach next year and the centennial of the October revolution, the restoration of a picture of Lenin from a Russian school has revealed far more than was expected. Primary School No 206 in St Petersburg had in the past been under Imperial Patronage and following the revolution portraits in the Grand Hall of Tsar Paul I and Tsar Peter I had been destroyed by the Soviets.
However, the school decided to see if the restoration experts at the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy in St. Petersburg, could repair a picture of Lenin they had which had a torn canvas. When the experts took the picture, painted in 1924 and removed the picture from the frame they were surprised to see the rear of the canvas was painted with a grey-white water soluble paint. The painting was x-rayed to see what was underneath. Tatiana Leonidovna Pozeluyeva, an art restoration professor at Stieglitz says about their discovery “we were shocked, almost to the point of humour, to discover Tsar Nicholas II’s head nearly exactly the same size and placement as Lenin’s”.
The academy has spent three years painstakingly cleaning and restoring the painting, by using baby soap and water. They have revealed an almost intact picture of Tsar Nicholas II dated 1896 and signed by Ilya Galkin Savich. He lived between 1860 and 1915, and as well as being a portrait painter favoured by the Imperial House, he was also a qualified art teacher for lower grades. It is now thought that the picture of Lenin, painted by the Soviet artist Vladislav Izmailovich, was painted with the picture still in its frame as an urgent act of protection and a degree of sympathy for the Imperial era.
The picture will be displayed on a frame in the academy’s hall, so that people can get up close and personal with this remarkable picture which shows two people from both sides of Russian history, so to speak.