The mansion of Mendelevich, masterly combining features of Art Nouveau and Renaissance, strikes with its decoration and design for over 100 years and remains one of the peaks of the creative work of V. I. Prohaska.
Type of building: mansion
Style: modernized Neo—Renaissance
Architect: V. I. Prohaska
Date of construction: 1909
Status: local architectural monument
General view of the facade
The land on Marazlievskaya Street was owned mostly by the aristocracy, that is why the major part of the street’s buildings is performed at the corresponding level and with highly refined interiors. Marazlievskaya Street started being lined with buildings at the turn of ХХ century, but buildings at several lots were erected quite late — this statement also concerns the area of 28.
In 1890s the lot was obtained by M. Asvadurov, and in the period of 1902-1907 years was purchased by a corn trader, Iefim Iakovlevich Mendelevich, «a merchant of the first guild, delegate of the merchants, a member of the bread-controlling commission of Odessa exchange; the guardian of industrial students’ school, founded by I. M. Mendelevich and etc». It is also well known, that he was related to the owner of Passage at Deribasovskaya Street, — Moisei Iakovich Mendelevich (the patronymics of both Mendelevichs coinside and there is a great chance that they were brothers).
Facade from the side of the yard
In 1909 a mansion in simple, but monumental shapes of Florentine Renaissance was built after the project of architect Vikentiy Prohaska. This architect had constructed only several buildings after his projects by that moment, but from the very beginning of his creative activity his houses had been among the finest ones. He was well advertised by a competitive project of the New Exchange and the building of the main department of Odessa private pawnshop society. For the mansion of Mendelevich, the choice of Neo—Renaissance style was not accidental, — majority of own projects by Prohaska were carried out in this very style, with the help of which the architect reached unusual refinement and monumentality. At the same time, the architect approached each project with creativity, though, as it would seem, the houses should be very similar.
A ledge above the pediment of the main facade
The mansion of Mendelevich has two floors and a habitable semi-basement, according to the plan the mansion is almost rectangular, without marked yard wings. V. I. Prohaska didn’t adhere strictly to the canons of Florentine Renaissance, but boldly mixed it with other styles, particularly with Art Nouveau that reigned at that time. The fence of light pockets of the semi-basement, entrance doors, carved wooden banisters of the main staircase were done exactly in this style. The bas-reliefs above the windows of the first floor got the interpretation peculiar to Art Nouveau. The house is crowned with a classical three-cornered pediment with a mascoron of Athena in a tympanum.
Sculpture decoration of the facade
Fragments of the facade of the building at a photo by Vladimir G. Nikitenko, 70s.
The architect almost fully covered the building with rustic stone, although thanks to the skillful usage of projecting key stones, Art Nouveau panels and bas-reliefs, the facade looks rather diverse. The bas-reliefs with images of separate scenes, united by the common theme of upbringing of children are arranged above the windows of the second floor. The stylized images of trees on the edges of the facade surface, amplifying the sculpture scenes, also grab attention.
Fragment of a cornice
Cornices under the ground floor windows
Fencing of the semi-basement
Instead of traditional bas-reliefs that were arranged in panels, Prohaska placed the figures directly on the facade surface, not separating them from the house that appeals to the idea of synthesis of arts, which was one of the aims of Art Nouveau. In other words, bas-reliefs weren’t isolated from other decoration, and interacted with it (something similar was implemented in the building of Kosagonovskaya at Nezhinskaya Street, 66).
In present time, three balconies are disposed at the mansion of Mendelevich. They were installed in the soviet times instead of the removed because of the decrepitude stone ones (unfortunately there is too little documental evidence left about their external appearance). The railing of the central balcony wasn’t preserved, but, taking into account the character of the facade and taking into account other rusticated buildings of Prohaska, the fencing of the balcony represented a stone balustrade.
Arch of the passage
Communal flats were formed out of the rooms of Mendelevich’s flat, which occupied the whole first floor. Separate flats with semi-basement rooms were situated on the ground floor in the left and right wings.
Arch of the passage
The ceilings of the arch of the yard passage are decorated with moulded mascarons that are identical to the mascarons placed on the facade of Gavsevich house (arch. S. S. Galperson, 1903). Possibly, Mendelevich had liked the mascarons of Gavsevich mansion, situated on Lidserovskiy boulevard on the way to Langeron beach.
One of the original entrance doors in the arch
Monumentality isn’t inherent in the staircase and the corridor of the first floor. On the contrary, the decoration became fanciful and pretentious because of the fulfillment, synthesizing in itself Baroque and Art nouveau.
Art nouveau stairs made entirely of wood draws special attention. Its peculiarity is the fulfillment of railings not as separate balusters but as profiled planes, covered at the same time with deep but simple by composition carving.
A view of the stairs and the window of the ground floor.
A view of the second flight of stairs from below.
Another interesting element is a diminutive wooden tambour that preserved an original door, badly damaged by times and alternations.
The space near the entrance is decorated with two caryatids that hold the landing of the first floor. Compositionally they are symmetrical to each other, but with a closer look the difference is revealed — the arm of the caryatid which is free from the holding, is relaxed, lowered and holds the cloth on the waist level; another caryatid’s arm is lifted, and the same cloth is thrown over it, hiding the nudity. With the lost wrist it, possibly, held a lantern or a candlestick. Both sculptures have naked breasts, which emphasizes their antique eroticism.
Also there, by the stairs, next to the right-side (if you look from downstairs) caryatid, a richly decorated niche is located, where a lamp, a vase with flowers or a sculpture could have been placed.
Two arch apertures lead to the first floor landing, and the space between them is decorated with two columns with slightly modernized capitals.
General view of the lobby from the first floor landing
Capitals of pilasters between the staircase and the landing of the first floor
A pair of putti is located in sopraportas of the doors, like the sculptures on the facade
The ceiling of the staircase also strikes; it was performed in the form of an oval plafond of plastic shapes. It naturally repeats the planning shape of the staircase part. Its walls, therewith, are decorated with Art Nouveau flute and double pilasters.
General view of the cupola-shaped vault above the staircase
First floor landing, general view
Returning to the first floor landing, it’s worth mentioning the semicircular ledge overhanging directly above the caryatid. It reminds of a small balcony and is decorated with a spectacular asymmetrical sculpture.
At present the original fencing of the first floor is lost completely and substituted, for safety, with a simple wooden construction. Time and men’s negligence relentlessly destroy the decoration of the unique building, and this is seen by the condition of the preserved elements of decor and lobby design (the only one of its kind in the city, by the way).
A huge Art Nouveau staircase window, preserved the unique sash, lost, however, stained glasses.
A sad destiny reached the painting of a plafond and decoration of the walls with Venetian putty.
The parquet of the landing remained as a whole, but is in a very decrepit condition.
In the soviet times the former lobby of a luxurious mansion, which became the entrance hall of a dwelling house, was painted with an ordinary blue paint. Today it came off from the walls here and there and revealed the original decoration.
The door of the lobby was dismantled in 2011 and replaced with a simple metal monolithic door without decor; other doors of the arch were more or less preserved. However, none of the inner doors, unfortunately, has lived till the present days.
Among the historic episodes, connected with the building and worthy of a memorial plaque, it should be mentioned that the elder son of the founder of national literary school, writer Itshock (Isaac) Ioel Linetskiy, lived here in one of rented apartments, in 1910s. It was an outstanding architect, Moisei Isakovitch Liteskiy, and a lot of wonderful buildings were made after his projects (mostly in Art Nouveau style) in Odessa, including the ones at Marazlievskaya, № 2 and № 14a.
References and archives
- «Architects of Odessa». V. Pilyavskiy
- «Houses, buildings, monuments of Odessa and their Architects». V. Pilyavskiy
- An article about the building from the blog Antique
- The gallery of old photos of Odessa
- The article «Along Marazlievskaya Street», T. Zayarnaya, Odessa literary miscellany, № 42 (1998)