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L’vov, Nikolay (Aleksandrovich)locked

(b Nikol’skoye-Cherenchitsy estate, nr Torzhok, 1751; d Moscow, 2/Jan 3, 1804).
  • N. A. Yevsina

Russian architect, theorist, illustrator, poet, Musician and inventor. An enlightened dilettante and encyclopedist from a princely family, he studied architecture on his own and travelled in western Europe (1775, 1776–7), above all in France and Italy. On his return to Russia L’vov worked at the Foreign Ministry and acquired a reputation as an architect from the early 1780s. His earliest works—the Neva Gate (1780–87) of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg, the single-domed cathedral of St Joseph (1780–98) in Mogilyov and the similar five-domed church (1785–96) at the monastery of SS Boris and Gleb in Torzhok—are characterized by their austere simplicity, spareness of form and pronounced monumentality. They became the model for many Russian Neo-classical churches of the late 18th century and the early 19th. L’vov’s works for St Petersburg include the Post Office (1782–9), unexecuted designs for the Cabinet on the Nevsky Prospect (1786–7) and for Kazan’ Cathedral (1787–91), various private houses, and, on the Aleksandrovskoye estate of Aleksandr Vyazemsky, the elegant church of the Trinity (1785–7), a rotunda with a novel pyramidal bell-tower.

L’vov’s enthusiasm for the artistic ideas of the 18th century found full expression in his architecture for country estates. He was particularly active in Tver’ Province, where his own estate of Nikol’skoye was located. The estate houses that he designed, surrounded by landscaped parks and sited to afford splendid views from the windows, combined Neo-classical beauty with comfort. He planned mainly small buildings, which recalled, albeit in a more modest version, the Palladian composition of Pavlovsk Palace (1781–96) by Charles Cameron. On prosperous estates L’vov created magnificent entrance vistas by connecting the main house to the outbuildings with colonnades, for example at Znamenskoye-Rayok (begun 1788). Conversely, however, his proposals for clients of moderate wealth dispensed with grand entrance courts. A typical feature of his designs is the central, circular, domed hall. L’vov’s interiors sometimes achieved remarkable effects with slender resources.

His park buildings are of equal artistic value. In the designs for these he developed ideas similar to those of Giacomo Quarenghi, whom he met frequently. These buildings include poetic pavilions and summer-houses—predominantly rotundas but sometimes oval in plan with porticos (e.g. design for a summer-house (1780s) for the Lyalichi estate)—grottoes, small bridges and modest service buildings. An integral part of his picturesque estate compositions was the church, usually a rotunda encircled by a colonnade, for example the church of St Catherine (1793) in Valday. Not all his estate churches conform to this pattern, however: some are square in plan with detached bell-towers (e.g. Arpachevo, 1783–91), while the church of St Catherine (1785–90) on the estate of Murino, near St Petersburg, is essentially an oval surmounted by a well-proportioned columnar rotunda.

Structural logic and the precise calculation of loads were invariably incorporated into L’vov’s works. Of particular interest was his search for new materials and methods of fireproofing country buildings, examples of which included his experimental rammed-earth structures, notably at Pavlovsk, a small house (1797) in the village of Aropokazi, near Gatchina, and at Priorat Castle (1797–9), Gatchina, for which he opened ‘Schools of Rammed-earth Building’ at Nikol’skoye and near Moscow. L’vov had wide-ranging interests. He illustrated Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1799) and the works of Derzhavin (before 1795), studied and recorded the words and music of Russian folk-songs, which he published in 1790, wrote librettos for comic operas, and wrote and translated poems, narrative verse and fables. He published a translation of the first book of Palladio’s treatise (St Petersburg, 1798), inserting into the text his own ideas about the value of Palladio’s legacy. While praising Palladio, L’vov rejected some tenets of his treatise as being unsuited to the conditions of the Russian climate and way of life.


  • F. L’vov: ‘L’vov’, Syn otechestva, 77 (1822), pp. 108–21
  • M. A. Il’in: ‘Chertezhi arkhitektora N. A. L’vova’ [Drawings of the architect N. A. L’vov], Arkhitektura Leningrada, 2 (1941), pp. 64–6
  • A. Lipman: ‘Neizvestnyye postroyki Nikolaya L’vova’ [The unknown buildings of Nikolay L’vov], Arkhitektura Leningrada, 2 (1941), pp. 67–9
  • M. V. Budylina: ‘Nikolay Aleksandrovich L’vov: K 150-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya’ [Nikolay Aleksandrovich L’vov: for the 150th anniversary of his birth], Sovetskaya arkhitektura, 5 (1954), pp. 75–87
  • G. G. Grimm: ‘Proyekt parka Bezborodko v Moskve’ [A design for Bezborodko’s park in Moscow], Soobshcheniya Inst. Istor. Isk. AN SSSR, 4–5 (1954), pp. 107–35
  • M. V. Budylina, O. I. Braytseva and A. M. Kharlamova: Arkhitektor N. A. L’vov [The architect N. A. L’vov] (Moscow, 1961)
  • N. A. Nikulina: Nikolay L’vov (Leningrad, 1971)
  • A. Glumov: N. A. L’vov (Moscow, 1980)
U. Thieme and F. Becker, eds: Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 37 vols (Leipzig, 1907–50) [see also Meissner above]