Posts Tagged ‘Toros Toramanian’

 

 

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Birth of Lydia Durnovo
(May 1, 1885)

 

Lydia Durnovo was a Soviet Russian art historian and restorer, considered one of the founders of the school of art historians in Armenia.

 

She was born in Smolensk (Russia) on May 1, 1885. She first attended a local gymnasium, where she studied drawing. She moved to St. Petersburg in 1904 and entered A. V. Makovsky’s art workshop. However, she only studied for a year. The Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 had started, and she left for the front to serve as a nurse. She returned to St. Petersburg in 1906 and she graduated from the school of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts in 1915. She would subsequently complete her postgraduate studies at the State Institute of Art History and the Archaeology Institute between 1920 and 1923. In the 1920s Durnovo worked as a research fellow at the Institute, specializing in early Russian art. She was also the assistant curator of the Russian Museum and headed its copy shop, gathering and training a group of enthusiasts, who became the core of a school of restorers and copyists.

 

In an early wave of repression, she was arrested in October 1933 for allegedly being an “active member of a counterrevolutionary fascist organization.” She was deported to Siberia and eventually freed three years later, in November 1936. In 1937 Ruben Drampian (founder and first director of the National Gallery of Armenia from 1935-1951), invited Durnovo to move to Armenia. The Gallery had created a department of Medieval Art, and it was necessary to establish the gathering and storage of manuscripts on a scholarly basis, as well as to organize the systematic copying of art works. She gathered again young students and taught them how to restore and copy works of art. After two years of contract work, she became a permanent employee of the Gallery in 1939.

 

Coming into contact with the architecture, frescoes, and miniatures of Armenia, Durnovo was among the first to look at them from the standpoint of an art historian. Scholars like Garegin Hovsepian, Toros Toramanian, Josef Strzygowski, and Nikolai Marr had contributed valuable historical and philological studies to the field, but Armenian medieval art was looking for a researcher who offered an aesthetic response.

 

The study of Armenian monumental painting, namely, frescoes, was Lydia Durnovo’s significant contribution. She discovered and studied unknown frescoes, and refuted Austrian art scholar Strzygowski’s view that medieval Armenia did not know them. She dated, organized, and copied Armenian frescoes, as well as miniatures. She also made an important contribution to the study and copying of drapery.

 

By the mid-1950s, Durnovo had earned authoritative reputation in the field of Armenian medieval art. In 1952 she published the album Armenian Ancient Miniature, which became a landmark in the scholarly life of Armenia and was published in eight languages from 1952 to 1969 (English edition, Armenian Miniatures, New York, 1961). Three years later, she left her work at the National Gallery and became a researcher at the Art Institute of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. She supervised the restoration of the frescoes of the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. Three years after Stalin’s death, she was rehabilitated by the Soviet government and the charges leveled at her in the 1930s were suppressed. In 1957 she published a second book, A Brief History of Old Armenian Painting.

After a prolific career and contribution to the study of Armenian art during a quarter of a century, Lydia Durnovo passed away in Yerevan on January 7, 1963. 

 

Portrait of Lydia Durnovo, by Martiros Sarian (1958)

Portrait of Lydia Durnovo, by Martiros Sarian (1958)

 

 

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Death of Toros Toramanian

(March 1, 1934)

 

A portrait of Toramanian by Martiros Sarian.

A portrait of Toramanian by Martiros Sarian.

The scientific study of Armenian architecture has reached important milestones since the early twentieth century. One name is to be remembered as its pioneer: Toros Toramanian.

 

Toramanian was born on March 18, 1864 in the city of Shabin-Karahisar, in Western Armenia. (One year later, another famous Armenian would be born there: General Antranig.) He attended the local Armenian schools, and at the age of fourteen, he lost his parents. In 1884 he left for Constantinople to pursue higher education. After working for two years as a mason and stone worker, he approved the entrance exam of the School of Fine Arts and studied architecture from 1886 to 1893.

 

He graduated in 1893, but he had not begun his career yet, when he was forced to leave the city due to the massacres ordained by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. After going to Belgium, he then moved to Sofia and Varna, in Bulgaria, where he built several public and residential buildings. He went to Romania in 1900, and then visited Egypt, Italy, and Greece.

 

Toramanian settled in Paris in 1902, where he deepened his knowledge on history of architecture at the Sorbonne. There he met Garabed Basmajian, director of the journal Banaser, whom he already knew from Constantinople. They put together the project of a mission to Ani in order to study the monuments of the capital of the Bagratuni Kingdom. They traveled in 1903, and discovered that the task was immense, and their means were very limited. Basmadjian returned to Paris to collect the necessary funds, and Toramanian remained alone in Ani, but he never obtained any financial assistance.

The ruins of a church in Ani.

The ruins of a church in Ani.

 

He wintered in Ani, in extremely difficult conditions. In an article on the church of Zvartnots published in 1905, he wrote: “I decided to stay and work in Ani to save from oblivion the remnants of the glorious past of our great people in order to be able to show them to the whole world.”

 

Toramanian had meanwhile participated in the excavations of Zvartnots, near Etchmiadzin, in the spring of 1904. He made a detailed study of the remaining pieces of the church, destroyed by an earthquake in the ninth century, and examined one by one all of them. This archaeological approach, quite unusual for the time, allowed him to propose the model of reconstruction of the circular church of Zvartnots that we know today.

The remains of Zvartnots Cathedral near the airport named after it in Armenia.

The remains of Zvartnots Cathedral near the airport named after it in Armenia.

 

In 1904 Professor Nicolas Marr, from the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, made his second campaign of excavations in Ani. Toramanian joined his team, and had the opportunity to study many monuments of the former Armenian capital, as well as of the surroundings, including the monasteries of Horomos, Tekor, and Bagnayr. In 1905-1906 the team of Marr discovered the remnants of the church of Gagikashen in Ani. Moreover, the finding of the statue of its builder, King Gagik I of Ani, holding the model of the church, confirmed Toramanian’s reconstruction of the circular church of Zvartnotz with three floors.

 

An image of what Zvartnots Cathedral would have looked like befor its destruction drawn by Toramanian.

An image of what Zvartnots Cathedral would have looked like befor its destruction drawn by Toramanian.

The architect continued his association with Marr at Ani and made various publications in Armenian journals, and became well-known in scholarly circles. In 1913 he was invited to Vienna by the famous Austrian art historian Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941) to give lectures on Armenian art, particularly about Ani. They had projected a joint work on the subject, based on the documents and materials that Toramanian had gathered. Afterwards, Toramanian accompanied Strzygowski on a brief trip in Armenia, and promised to complete the documentation for the joint publication.

 

The beginning of World War I made it impossible for Toramanian to travel back to Austria to continue work on the publication. In 1918, however, the cover of the two-volume Die Baukunst die Armenier und Europa (The Art of the Armenians and Europe), which would engage specialists of European medieval art in heated debates, only had Strzygowski’s name on it, with Toramanian reduced to the role of an informant. Besides, he had lost most of his archives and unpublished works during the Ottoman invasion of Armenia in 1918, followed by the flee of his family from Alexandropol to Tiflis, including a dictionary of Armenian architecture, a comparative study of Byzantine and Armenian architecture, and a study on the history of Armenian funerary monuments.

 

After the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia, Toramanian became one of the founding members of the Committee for the Maintenance of Monuments. He created the Department of Architecture of the State Museum of Armenia, which he directed for two years. He passed away on March 1,1934, and his archives provided the material for the two-volume Materials for the History of Armenian Architecture, posthumously published in 1942 and 1948.

 

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