The Bergholtz Collection: Architectural Drawings of the Palaces in Jelgava and Rundale from Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

  • Georgy Smirnov
  • Tatyana Vyatchanina
Keywords: architecture, palaces of Biron, Baroque, Rastrelli, Bergholtz collection, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Albertina Museum


The article deals with two Courland palaces built by the Duke Ernst
Johann Biron in Mitau and Ruhental (today, respectively, Jelgava and
Rundale, Latvia) in connection with architectural drawings of the
so-called Bergholtz collection, which is part of the Tessin-Hårleman
Collection (THC) in Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Twelve drawings
of the two Courland palaces make this collection of special interest
to those interested in the art of the Baltic region.
The first part of the paper is dedicated to the person of Friedrich
Wilhelm von Bergholtz and to his collection. Who was the creator
of the collection, what were the reasons to gather it and what other
drawings are stored there? Born in the German duchy of Holstein,
Bergholtz spent in all about 15 years in Russia. An extremely rich
and diverse collection of architectural drawings was gathered mainly
(presumably totally) during his third visit in 1742–1746 as tutor of
Karl-Peter-Ulrich, heir to the Russian throne and future emperor of
Russia under the moniker Peter III. The circumstances of compiling
the collection and reasons for it are quite obscure. All the assumptions
made by different authors remain mere guesswork. The greater
part of the Bergholtz collection deals with St Petersburg and its
surroundings. All other drawings, numbering 174 in total, refer
to Moscow, to several provinces of the Russian empire and to the
Duchy of Courland.
The second part of the article reveals and describes 12 sheets
from the Bergholtz collection dedicated to the Baroque palaces in
Courland constructed in the 1730s for duke Ernst Johann Biron
according to the projects of the great architect Francesco Rastrelli.
The research resulted in the discovery of seven sheets depicting plans
and façades of the palaces in Ruhental, showing how they are almost
exact copies of the original projects stored in the collection of the
Albertina museum in Vienna. Of the five drawings that represent
the palace in Mitau, two are also copies of the Vienna sheets, and
three are copies of completed projects. Thus, the most valuable among
the architectural drawings from the Bergholtz collection are three
drawings depicting the façade, and plans for two floors, of the palace
in Mitau – the only known copies of Rastrelli’s project, the originals
of which have not yet been discovered.


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Author Biographies

Georgy Smirnov

Georgy Smirnov is the leading researcher at the Department of the
Inventory of Historic Buildings at the State Institute for Art Studies in
Moscow. He studied art history at the University of Moscow. In 2003,
he received a PhD with a work titled Architecture of Public Buildings
in Russian Provincial Towns in the 2nd Half of the 18th century.
His main fields of research are Russian 18th century architecture
(especially Baroque and Neoclassical) and Central Europe in the
16th–18th centuries. Smirnov has released numerous publications on the
history of Russian architecture and Baroque architecture in Central
Europe. Recent publications include: Inventory of Historic Buildings
and Monuments of Russia. Tver Region (Svod pamyatnikov arkhitektury
I monumentalnogo iskusstva Rossii. Tverskaya oblast), vol. 1–4 (ed. by
G. K. Smirnov, 2003–2016); History of Russian Art, vol. 13. Russian
Provincial Art of the Second Half of the 18th century (Istoriya rysskogo
iskusstva, Tom 13. Provinzialnoe iskusstvo vtoroi poloviny 18 veka) (ed.
by G. K. Smirnov, under completing).

Tatyana Vyatchanina

Tatyana Vyatchanina is the Deputy Director of research at the
Research Institute for the Theory and History of Architecture and
Urban Planning; and adviser to the Director of the Central Scientific
and Restoration Project Workshops for scientific and publishing
activities Moscow.
T. Vyatchanina studied art history at the University of Moscow. In
2009 she received PhD in Art history with “The Spiritual Foundations
of Architectural Forms in the Church Architecture of Ancient Russia”.
Her main fields of research are the theory of reconstruction and
restoration of architectural monuments, and the history of Russian
Mediaeval architecture. Vyatchanina is the author of a significant
number of scientific and research publications on the history of
Russian architecture and heritage conservation. Among them are: On
the Iconography and Tectonics of the Orthodox Temple; Monuments in Prerevolutionary Russia: Essays on the History of Architectural Restoration;
and numerous articles in periodicals and scientific collections,
for example “Architectural Heritage”, “History of Architecture in
the History of Culture”, “Academia”, “Restoration and Research of
Cultural Monuments”, etc.