November 7, 2016 by AK
They say there are three Vladimirs in Moscow now: one lying, one sitting, and one standing. That is, Vladimir Lenin’s body is in the mausoleum in Red Square in a horizontal position; Vladimir Putin “sits” in the Kremlin (as in “The King sits upon the throne of judgment” or “The king sits in Dunfermline town”); and the statue of St. Vladimir stands on Borovitsky square.
The prince looks a little heavyset, which he might have been in reality but which was probably not the sculptor’s intention. Rather, the statue was produced for a different location, to be installed near the observation point on Sparrow Hills and to overlook the center of the city. The dominant position would make it akin to the St. Vladimir the Baptist monument in Kiev.
There were many problems with the proposed location, however. The University building behind the statue would continue to dominate the skyline, relegating Vladimir to subsidiary status. The ground could give way under the weight of the statue and its pedestal, causing a landslip. Worst of all, perhaps, the new Moscow Vladimir would be a complete flop – a replica at best – if it were to invite comparisons with its Kiev counterpart.
In the 1840s and 50s, Nicholas I and his imperial government recruited the best forces to build the Baptism monument in Kiev: it was first designed by Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky (he, too, had studied with Canova, if briefly) and completed after his death by Konstantin Thon, while Peter Clodt sculpted the figure of the prince. Any present-day team of sculptors and architects would have to work very hard to best these old hands. Judging by the quality of Moscow’s post-Soviet statues, the end result would have been unimpressive. The Borovitsky square statue isn’t great either but it does not invite too many unflattering comparisons.