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Faces of metropolitan houses: How mascarons appeared in Moscow and where they can be seen

When people rush through the streets of the center of Moscow, few people notice small details on old houses. Moreover, even large and seemingly noticeable architectural elements elude our attention. Meanwhile, from dozens of Moscow houses amazing masks look to us, each of which has its own features and its own expression of a stone face …

Masquerades – convex stucco figures in the form of human (most often female), as well as animal or mythical faces and masks – in pre-revolutionary times were often placed on houses as architectural decorations. They can still be seen on some buildings in the upper part of the cladding of windows, doors, under the balconies and in many other places.

The first mascarons began to appear in Russia in the time of Peter the Great. For example, the stucco heads of angels could be found at the end of the 17th century on the walls of several Moscow churches, then images of lion’s faces (sometimes with human features) and, finally, delicate female heads became fashionable.

A girl from a preserved part of the fence of the Moscow Imperial Educational House (second half of the 18th century).

A girl from a preserved part of the fence of the Moscow Imperial Educational House (second half of the 18th century).

Especially often these masks were molded on Moscow houses in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they also met at the turn of the past and the year before last. Maskarons in Moscow experienced different styles: Baroque, Classicism, Empire. Even when at the beginning of the 20th century modernity confidently entered the fashion, the maskerons again found a place – for example, they could be seen in mansions built according to the design of a talented architect Fyodor Shekhtel.

The architectural fashion in Moscow changed, but rich citizens did not cease to decorate their buildings with face-masks, and only in the Soviet years, the craze for mascarons among customers and the architects themselves declined for obvious reasons (the fight against architectural excesses).

Before the revolution, the owners of future buildings ordered such “masks” to artists and architects out of a desire to show their importance, social significance, material wealth, surprise the public, and sometimes this even went to the detriment of the grace and beauty of the buildings.

However, among such pre-revolutionary architectural works were very interesting, made with a delicate taste. Well, in our time, perhaps, any such mascaron is a unique “exhibit”.

You look at such a mask, try to unravel its mood, which the author wanted to convey, and it begins to seem that the house has a soul. And maybe the way it is?

In Moscow, mascarons can most often be found in the city center. Most of these works are pre-revolutionary, and this gives stone faces and the buildings themselves a special mystery.

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