"I Am Dostoevsky". The Dostoevsky Bicentennial Exposition

The Dostoevsky Bicentennial Exposition

I Am Dostoevsky

November 13, 2021 - February 14, 2022, St. Michael's Castle (St. Petersburg, Sadovaya Str., 2)

For an exposition on the occasion of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s bicentennial, St. Michael’s Castle — where the writer spent his first years in St. Petersburg — is the perfect venue.

In January 1838, in accordance with his father’s wishes, Dostoevsky entered the Academy of Military Engineers, which was housed in St. Michael’s (then known as the Engineers’ Castle). After completing the “full academic course he entered active service in the Corps of Engineers,” serving for about a year in the Main Engineering Department, also located here. He resigned in 1844, writing, “I’m as sick of the service as I am of potatoes. I resigned. Just because. They take away your best time for nothing. I can’t enjoy life.” He had lived in this shadowy, mysterious space for about seven years, virtually never leaving it for the first three. There is no other place in St. Petersburg that Dostoevsky was connected to for so long. He was 23 years old.

He had already chosen his path in life. A year later, St. Petersburg greeted his literary debut, the novel Poor Folk. Dostoevsky was suddenly the talk of the town: “Well, brother, I don’t think my fame will ever reach these heights again. Everywhere there is incredible respect, an awful curiosity about me.”

Dostoevsky was mistaken: his fame and notoriety and the interest generated by his work only grow with each passing year. Today, the whole world is talking about him.

The exhibits that form the core of this exposition are taken from an imagined “ideal museum” of works of art which were particularly iconic for Dostoevsky throughout his life. He never missed an exhibition in St. Petersburg and visited all the most prominent museums and galleries in Europe, and he knew by heart the collections of the Old Masters Gallery in Dresden, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. The list of works that he admired is quite long: Claude Lorrain’s landscapes, the Gates of Paradise in Florence, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Saint Agatha, Pompeo Batoni’s Penitent Magdalene, and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, which Dostoevsky considered a true masterpiece.

It would be impossible to put together an exhibition featuring all of Dostoevsky’s “picks”: most of his favorite works of art are kept in various European museums. The exposition features copies of some of them, made by great master copyists of the 19th century. Visitors will be able to view not only works that Dostoevsky himself knew well, but also paintings which reflect his artistic vision and the worlds inhabited by his characters.

Dostoevsky’s attitude towards art, his writings about painting, and his reflections on the way artists should express their visual perceptions help us to better understand his creative process. The goal of this exposition is to provide a substantive visual representation of Dostoevsky’s inner creative life through his appreciation of painting.

The exhibits also include objects which belonged to Dostoevsky — rare items provided by the Pushkin House Literary Museum and the Dostoevsky Museum of St. Petersburg.

For the first time in St. Petersburg, the exposition features the book most valued by Dostoevsky — a copy of the gospels which he received as a gift in Siberia. He cherished it his entire life, and it was the last book he held in his hands before his death.

The exposition is accompanied by an audio tour featuring an actor playing Dostoevsky who explains the logic behind the selection of images on display.

Participants of the project

State Russian Museum
F.M.Dostoevsky Literary-Memorial Museum
Russian State Library
State Tretyakov Gallery
State Hermitage
Literary museum of the Institute of Russian Literature (the Pushkin House) RAS
Scientific Research Museum of the Academy of Arts
State Museum of the History of St Petersburg
State Literary Museum (Moscow)
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Kunstmuseum Basel
Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore - Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Florence)

Visitors must present a ticket for entry to the exposition, which is open during the normal hours of operation of St. Michael’s Castle http://en.rusmuseum.ru/mikhailovsky-castle/history/