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Artist Mikhail Mikeshin: projects that never became banknotes5 июля 2018 года

Artist Mikhail Mikeshin: projects that never became banknotes

Many well-known artists co-operated with the Expedition of Storing State Papers at different times. Nikolay Nabokov, Adolf Charlemagne, Richard Zarrin designed paper money… However, few people know that Mikhail Mikeshin, the famous author of monuments “Millennium of Russia” in Novgorod and to Catherine II in Saint Petersburg, took part in developing the projects of banknotes for the Expedition of Storing State Papers. The banknote design variants he offered were not approved, but remained in the collection of Goznak.

Mikhail Osipovich Mikeshin was born in 1835 in Smolensk gubernia. His talent for painting was revealed in his childhood. A.A. Vonlyarlyarskiy, a landowner from Smolensk, paid attention to the young talent; he took Mikeshin to Saint Petersburg and paid for his education at the Academy of Arts. It was here that the artist’s talent unfolded well and truly. After graduating from the Academy in 1858, the artist received an offer to go abroad, but he refused the trip because he decided to remain and work in Russia.

In the 1890s, when Mikeshin was already an acknowledged master of painting, graphic art and book illustration, he designed a few projects of banknotes for the Expedition of Storing State Papers. One can only regret that none of them was fulfilled. Distinguishing features of his projects were the special emphasis of the images of the Russian warriors of the 16 – 17th centuries and peasant girls he created as well as his attention to the details. For example, in one of his paintings, there are two peasant women – one of them is dressed in the South Russian, and the other is in Central and North Russian clothes. In the background, there is Mercury, who was the god of bread business first of all in the Roman tradition, and thereafter the god of trade in general.

In another painting, Mikeshin depicted the Millennium of Russia Monument he had projected 30 years before, as well as the coats of arms of Russia of various epochs – from Ivan III till Alexander III.

Interest in the Russian traditions was typical of the reign of Emperor Alexander III. At the time when Mikeshin created his sketches, there appeared banknotes with the image of a woman in rich clothes symbolizing Russia, in circulation. However, the artist presented the image of Russia in a different way in his sketches. His Russia is not royalty, but a warrior, a shooter, a peasant – heroes who were not necessarily noblemen.

It is curious that on the projects of 3-rouble banknotes, the artist placed Roman figures and large dots indicating their face value. It was possibly done to help illiterate or visually impaired people to distinguish the banknote face values reliably.

Ekaterina Chistikova,
The Exhibition Complex of Goznak

Translated by Tatiana Ugryumova
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