Beginning of the Life
The father's service at the court made it possible for the family to live a comfortable life until the breadwinner dead in 1822 (during a cholera epidemic). Nicholas studied at the SS. Peter and Paul German school (St. Petrischule) attached to the Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg. He early showed a talent for drawing under the guidence of the celebrated teacher of the time, the artist Kabel. One of his earliest drawings stored in the Manuscripts Department, depicts the city view near his home.
Responding to a request from Nicholas' mother to put the boy to the Academy of Arts, and «due to Empress Maria Feodorovna's interest in the fate of the widow of her deceased maitre d'hotel Benois», Emperor Nicholas I ordered to admit the 14-year-old Nicholas to the Academy of Arts for the study of architecture. Benois was accepted to the Academy on 1 December 1827, after an examination. Nicholas was well prepared, and his extraordinary zeal made him an excellent student during next nine years.
As initial exercises, students drew orders, studied the theory of the art of building. Since the «third age», they started to draw and copy from engravings of landmarks of classical architecture. Then, during the directorship of Alexander Olenin, there was coming a time for change in the Academy of Arts: a gradual decay of classicism gave way to a romantic tendency.
> In 1835, Nicholas Benoit was awarded by the large silver medal for the museum project which represents a strictly antique facade that was enlivened by sculptures and elegant details. During these years he also worked on architectural and decorative compositions: the collection of the Manuscripts Department contains several sketches for his luxuriant tableau « The Museum Interior » (the State Russian Museum). The memorial project of the construction
in the spirit of the Roman Pantheon, made to commemorate Empress Maria Feodorovna, is also imbued with academic trends. Its facade is carefully designed in the miniature technique.
On 27 September 1836, the Council of the Academy awarded Benois by a gold medal: the graduate excellently fulfilled the task given by Director A. Olenin: to create a project of the School of Jurisprudence building in an elegant classical style. The medal gave the right to a grant for a six year trip abroad. A recipient of a grant began to be paid since his arrival in Rome, to which he was sent after the return of previous grantees.
After graduating from the Academy, waiting for his turn to go abroad, Nicholas was assistant of his teacher Christian Meyer in building. Soon, Konstantin Thon, knowing Benoit as an excellent draftsman, appointed Benois to aid him in his work (first in the construction of the Church of the Life Guards Semenov Regiment in St. Petersburg, and then the Moscow Kremlin Palace and Maly Theater). A drawing of a longitudinal section of St. George Hall of the Kremlin Palace dates to this period. Corrections made by the pen of Konstantin Thon are visible over raw pencil sketches by Nicholas Benois.
Nicholas Benois. Heads of tigers.
Inscription: «Dessiné à ľécole reformée sous Mr. Kabel en 1826». Picture by the 13-year-old Nicholas Benois under the guidance of the artist Kabel.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 133, fol. 21v. (No 43).
Nicholas Benois. Pier in Smolny Buyan (Arkhangelsk).
Watercolour (monochromic). 25 December 1830.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 132, fol. 3 (No 5).
Nicholas Benois. Project of the museum building. Facade and lateral section.
Ink, watercolour. 28 April 1835.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 4, fol. 2.
Nicholas Benois. The interior of the museum.
Sketch of an architectural and decorative composition for a panel picture intended as a gift to Nicholas I from the Academy of Arts.
Pen, ink with an undercolour using watercolour paint. 1834.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 133, fol. 8v. (No 13).
Nicholas Benois. Project of the Monument to Empress Maria Feodorovna.
Plan and the main facade. Inscription: «Projet de Monument à ľ Imperatrice Maria Feodorovna».
Pen, ink, watercolour. Without date.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 132, fol. 31 (No 58).
Nicholas Benois. Draft for the School of Jurisprudence. Plan and the facade.
Ink, Pencil, watercolour. 1836.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 5, fol. 1.
Nicholas Benois. St. George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Sketch of the design of the lateral wall. Drawing. On the right side, there is a pen sketch of the other variant, outlined under the drawing. At the bottom, there is a mark by hand of Nicholas Benois, 'Improvement by Konstantin Thon'.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 133, fol. 59 (No 139).