Nicholas Benois

Distinguished Master and the Founder of an Artistic Family

Commemorative sheet  to mark the Birth Centenary of Nicholas Benois.
On 27 September 1886, the Academy of Arts held a celebration honouring Nicholas Benois — the oldest Russian architect, academician of architecture and the architect of the Imperial Court. It marked the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of his independent professional career. It was exactly 50 years ago when Nicholas defended his graduation project and apprenticed with the rector of the architectural division of the academy Konstantin Thon in anticipation of a grantee's trip. Since then, Nicholas Benois worked continuously: between 1850 and 1875, he served as the main architect of Peterhof, the most beautiful suburb of St. Petersburg. In 1851, he was a member of the Board of the 1st District of Railways, in 1852, was appointed the architect of the Ministry of State Property. Since 1863, Nicholas Benois was the chief architect of the imperial theaters. In the 1868-1872 period, he was elected a member of the City Council (and since was re-elected every 4 years), and from 1873, he was in charge of the construction part of the City Government. In addition to his duries, he was the chairman of the St. Petersburg Society of Architects from 1880 to 1893.

In 1854, after the construction of the main buildings in Peterhof, N. Benois was awarded by the Order of St. Vladimir of the 4th Class, in 1858, for his merits (Lissino) - by the Order of St. Stanislav of the 2nd Class, in 1865, for his services (the estate of Petrovsko-Razumovskoye) - by Order of St. Vladimir of the 3rd Class, in 1886, in connection with the anniversary - by the Order of St. Anna of the 1st Class. In the same year, the City Council established the Scholarship named after N. Benois at the Academy of Arts.

Nikolas Benois was an even-tempered person but, at the same, he had steadiness to carry out his views. He also had an ability to judge impartially and was easy to communicate with everybody, so Nikolas was deeply respected by his colleagues. N. Benois was highly regarded by his contemporaries as a brilliant architect-artist who knew much about of all the variety of trends in modern architecture, as a connoisseur of styles and an experienced practitioner engaged in the reconstruction and completion of the buildings, often adding them to an architectural ensemble. Benois could combine the typical desire for the feasibility and functionality with spirituality and figurative expressiveness. He has remained in the memories of the members of his large family as a great toiler who devoted his entire life to the art. No wonder that the Russian branch of the artistic dynasty, the head of which was Nicholas Benois and successors were his talented sons (Albert, Leon, Nicholas, Michael, Alexander) and grandchildren (the Lancerays, Schroters, Frolovs, Serebryakovs, Ustinovs and others) made the Benois family famous.

Nicholas Benois. The genealogical tree of the Benois family.
Pen and ink. January 1880.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 132, fol. 37 v. (No 68)
Commemorative sheet to mark the Birth Centenary of Nicholas Benois.
Ink, watercolor, with photographs and signatures. 1913.
F. 63, op. 1, item No 137.