V.M. Sokolov portrait of Mikhail Nikolaivitch in the Tchernigov Museum of Art

Portrait of Mikhail Nikolaivitch Kotchoubey (1863-1935) as a young teenager by V.M. Sokolov (Tchernigov Art Museum Collection)
Portrait of Mikhail Nikolaivitch Kotchoubey (1863-1935) as a young teenager by V.M. Sokolov (Tchernigov Art Museum Collection)

Thanks to the curator of the Baturyn Museum Complex, we learned that a portrait previously categorized as Portrait of an unknown person has been identified as that of of Mikhail Nikolaivitch (1863-1935).  It is currently in the collection of Chernigov’s Grigori Galagan Museum of Art (see: http://www.halahan-art.com/photo/). Grigori Pavlovitch Galagan (1819-1888) was the husband of Ekaterina Vassilievna Galagana (née Kotchoubey) whose fahter Vassili Vassilievitch (1784-1844) was the brother of Arkadi Vassilievitch (1790-1878). Arkadi Vassilievitch was the grandfather of Mikhail Nikolaivitch, the subject of the portrait. Arkadi’s brother, Vassili Vassilievitch was married twice. His first wife was Evdokia Vassilievna (née Lizogub) from an old Cossack family but she died in 1815. His second wife was Varvara Nikolaivna (née Rakhmanova) (-1846) who was the mother of Ekaterina Vassilievna and

1) Vassili Vassilievitch (1829-1878) who was married:
1a) Nadezhda Mikhailovna Kotchoubey (née Markovitch) (1837-1867)
1b) Maria Ivanovna Kotchoubey (née Dragnevitch) (1848-1920)

2) Prss. Elizaveta Vassilievna Kotschoubey (née Kotchoubey) and married to Prince Leon Victorovitch Kotschoubey
3) Elena Vassilievna Rehbinder (née Kotchoubey) and married to Konstantin Grigorievitch Rehbinder (-07.08.1886)

The connections with the portrait’s author and the Kotchoubey family or more specifically Mikhail Nikolaivitch come primarily from the collaborative efforts between Mikhail Nikolaivitch’s mother, Elena Sergeivna Molchanova-Kotchoubey-Rakhmanova (née Princess Volkonskaya) and the architect, ceramist Alexander Eduard Yulievitch Yagn /  Александр-Эдуард Юльевич Ягн(1848—1922).  In 1973, Elena Sergeievna married Alexander Alexeivitch Rakhmanov (1830-1911), who was a nobleman from Tchernigov province, a wealthy landowner and after the death of her husband Nikolai Arkadievitch (1827-1865), the manager of the Kotchoubey estate, Voronki. Alexander Alexeivitch was probably a relative of Varvara Nikolaivna Kotchoubey (née Rakhmanova).  Once married, Alexandewr Alexeivitch and his new wife, Elena Sergeievna bought an estate called Veisbakhovka / Вейсбаховка (see: http://siver.org.ua/?p=393) which was about 30km away from Voronki.  They hired Yafn and with his help they completed the construction of a fantastical neo-Russian-Ukrainian complex of buildings in 1886.

The architectural style which appeared in Moscow and was popular among the wealthy merchant class was a historical revival style that quoted archtitectural signatures of Russian – Ukrainian designs from the 17th-18th centuries. The architectural complex in Veisbakhovka took 10 years to complete and it included a manor house in the form of a grand khutor,  a fligel in the form of a smaller khutor which was used as a guest house, a kitchen building and a church. In addition the property was surrounded by two parks, three fruit orchards and a lake affectionately named Mokretz and two ponds, Revnia and Mlaki.

Ceiling in the Grand Salon of Veisbakhovka painted by V.M. Sokolov
Ceiling in the Grand Salon of Veisbakhovka painted by V.M. Sokolov

The collaborative process involved Yagn’s friend V.M. Sokolov who was a painter and interior designer. The two collaborated on a number of projects together, including the design and construction of the manor house and fligels at Tinitsa which belonged to Alexander Vassilievitch, the uncle-in-law of Elena Sergeievna. Sokolov and Yagn studied together in Rome and then Moscow. Sokolov was responsible for all the interior design and he also painted the ceiling of the main house at Veisbokhovka as well as the portrait of Mikhail Nikolaivitch. The building of this complex achitectural ensemble introduced a complicated dynamic into the world of the Rakhmanovs and eventually, Elena Sergeivna fell in love with Yagn and after the death of her third husband she became Yagn’s common law wife (cannonincal church law forbid more than three marriages). As a result the Yagn familiy and the Sokolov family became constant visitors if not permanent guests at Veisbokhovka.

from the left, V.M. Sokolov and above him is Lida Nikolaievna Khrapovitskaya, M. Yulievna Yagn. At the top of the steps is Fedosi “Doska” V. Sokolov. On the right are Sergei Mikhailovitch Kotchoubey, his aunt, Elena Alexandrovna Rakhmanova, Mikhail Mikhailovitch Kotchoubey and Vassili Mikhailovitch Kotchoubey (photo: 1906 ?)

The above family photograph shows some of the various members of the families together on the front steps of the main house at Veisbakhovka around 1906. Seated with his back to the photographer is V.M. Sokolov / В.М. Соколов  and then above him is Lida Nikolaievna Khrapovitskaya / Лида Николаевна Xраповицкая  and next to her is M. Yulievna Yagn / М Юльевна Ягн  (Alexander Yagn’s sister). At the top of the steps is Sokolov’s son Fedosi “Doska” V. Sokolov / Федосий В. Соколов. On the right side of the stairs are Sergei Mikhailovitch / Сергей Михайлович (1894-1960), his aunt, Elena Alexandrovna Rakhmanova / Елена Александровна Рахманова  (1875-1946), Mikhail Mikhailovitch / Михаил Михайлович  (1894-1963) and Vassili Mikhailovitch / Василий Михайлович  (1889-1920). 

The Kotchoubey boys (sons of Mikhail Nikolaivitch) became good friends with Doska Sokolov and spent many summers together at Veisbokhovka. Mikhail Mikhailovitch remembered the moment when he fired his hunting rifle inside the house near Doska’s ear and he complained for the rest of his life that it had made him death. After the Civil War, Doska emigrated to Italy where he married an Italian and like his father became a painter. He worked for most of his life at the Uffizi as a restorer and he was a frequent guest a the Sergei Mikhailovitch’s hom in Florence from the early 1930s to 1953 after which the Kotchoubeys emigrated to the United States.

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