by Gregory Orekhov in Peterhof

Published on August 11, 2019

On the occasion of the 220th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin's birth, the Peterhof State Museum Reserve presents “Eternity“, a sculpture by Gregory Orekhov. It is the first time that a work by a modern artist is displayed at this historical site, in Peterhof. This work, a sculptural portrait of Pushkin’s face created by Gregory Orekhov, fits organically into the landscape of the Alexandria Park. 

Elena Kalnitskaya, Director General of the Peterhof State Museum Reserve: “Sculptor Gregory Orekhov dared to present to the public an image of the great poet as his death mask cast in bronze. Placed in the Alexandria Park, Gregory’s image of Pushkin enters into a sacred interaction with the space. Both the genius poet, and the space benefit from the presence of this sculpture in the park. The image and the surrounding landscape complement each other with new meanings. Whereas previously historians used to debate whether the name of Alexandria stems from the name of Alexander Menshikov, an associate of Peter the Great, Emperor Alexander I or Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, these days, if even for a short period of time, it becomes consonant with the name of Alexander Pushkin, clear and simple.”

Working with Pushkin's mask, Gregory doesn't add anything of his own, on the contrary, he tries to refine the mask from all layering and avoid any specifics of doubtful accuracy. Orekhov treats the iconographic material very delicately. This new Pushkin is minimalistic because the idea doesn’t need any excessive details. At the same time, meticulous shaping of the initial mold by itself required complex technical solutions. The gigantic mask is cast in bronze from two sides simultaneously which is very unusual for a Russian sculpture. Pushkin’s face appears three-dimensional thanks to an optical effect that makes our brain perceive the reverse side as a direct image. And this back side of the sculpture shows the unexpected and the new that each viewer can interpret in their own way. The surface of the sculpture changes depending on the angle of view, thus creating an illusion of face mimics, fleeting mood changes.

Ever since he was a child, Gregory Orekhov worked with plastic molds at the workshop of his father, Moscow sculptor Yuri Orekhov. Gregory remembers that Pushkin’s mask hanged on a wall in the studio and became his first training model. That is why he found working on “Eternity“ particularly thrilling.

It is not by chance that the sculpture takes this space. Alexandria Park was founded by Nicholas I and served as a family residence for the emperor. It was to Nicholas I that Pushkin addressed his last letter dictated to Vasily Zhukovsky after being fatally injured in a duel. Pushkin himself frequented Peterhof, whether by himself or accompanied by his friends during festivities and balls thrown by the members of the emperor’s family. This creates historical and cultural narratives of the place — the location of the sculptural image of the poet has a meaning and serves a purpose. Eternity, created to commemorate the anniversary of the great poet blends into the scenery of the XIX century and becomes part of the historical landscape.

The 3.8-meter sculpture is cast in bronze and brass and covered with white pigment. It will be on display in Peterhof through the end of September 2019.