Program of the 4th Congress

S.S. Vaneyan

The middle in the wraps: 
Nikolai Brunov’s architectural theory – german roots, soviet shoots and antique fruits[1]

It is a mission of our age to raise the art of construction to a new level of perfection through a novel synthesis of the functional constructive and artistic components of architectural composition.
Nikolai Brunov
It is commonly believed that every style of construction has its own “order”, its architectonic Gestalt law.
Nikolai Brunov

I. “The Principle of Realism”: The Classical of the Antiquity as the Archaic of Our Day

I will share my impressions and thoughts of one seemingly all but forgotten yet extremely important page from the history of the science of art in one “country taken separately”. In fact, there were two countries, and at some point they were even similar in some ways…

Once, by pure chance, in a Berlin second-hand bookshop I came across a book printed in the GDR by the Dresden Kunstverlag publishers in the still thriving Fundus series in the distant year of 1972. It was Entwicklungsetappen der Architektur (Development Stages of Architecture) by Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov,[1] a notable and remarkable figure that, as usually happens, was also edifying and full of meaning. It seemed to me that the text has clearly involuntary symptoms, which are undoubtedly useful for our present immediate purposes (recognized symptoms already are a diagnosis and the business of physicians rather than patients, among whom we have to count ourselves and our likes). These symptoms are indicative of specific latent processes that were and, alas, are still characteristic of a certain – Soviet – scholarly tradition, which will be the subject of my somewhat chaotic remarks.

I will try to identify sections, or zones within one not very well-known text of one very well-known and honoured man of science, which contain important markers regarding not only possible, but downright mandatory evaluative, that is, critical judgements.

I found it possible to share some of my observations on this score in the context of the experience of studying precisely Antiquity material because the Antiquity can be a stumbling stone that simultaneously is the cornerstone for a variety of structures – not only in the field of art studies – in which the architectonic metaphor appears absolutely universal and undoubtedly not limited to, for example, the biblical context, which, it should be noted, also is the European context. I think that my modest purposes do not even require any special harmonization of cultural and civilizational contexts and traditions because, indeed, any antiquity can serve as the foundation of certain subsequent historical phenomena, be they new religious experiences or new scholarly paradigms.

In any case, both face a common peril, namely, the devaluation and inflation of meaning upon transit (or return) to mythology and ideology. Such things can happen to both faith and science (which are essentially related things) in certain adverse circumstances (primarily of a historical and political nature). That is why resort to a certain initial experience – pre-start, preliminary and therefore also of the Antiquity – always produces some revitalizing or at least heuristic effect, when it becomes possible to see the pure image of the classical or, better still, the archaic through the dim glass of one of the countless “classicisms”. 

Very often quite modest indicators/symptoms or slight, seemingly infinitesimal pretexts are enough for you to sense in some statement relating precisely to the Antiquity a need for rather fundamental observations. Here they are, these seemingly quite general and almost routine remarks regarding the Antiquity. Of course, the author who is of interest to us managed to put a good deal of ritual officialese into these few sentences, but at the same time he put across at least his apparently hidden sentiments, if not desires. Although one would like to believe that they also are manifestations of research skills and mental/intellectual habits which one simply cannot escape or shake off:

“The concept of democracy, republic, the idea of equality of all citizens and the emergence of sciences all are preconditions for the development of a new principle as the foundation of art and architecture, the principle of realism. This principle led to the appearance of a new human image, one that saw man as the crown of Nature…” (42).

Generally speaking, there is nothing to find fault with here: all the camouflage cliches are present and all the proper stock phrases in place. But we can, for example, put something beginning with “G” before the “Democracy” and “Republic” (it can be Germany as the home country of the published text and, incidentally, Greece as the homeland of that same Germany, in a way, and almost all of Europe), and then we get a quite fitting deciphering of the familiar abbreviation standing for the quite understandable cultural and historical engram, if not enigma, making it possible correctly to read the lapse: “crown of Nature” instead of “creation”, which of course will throw a different light on “the principle of realism”. “The principle of hope” will definitely and clearly ring in it and another short-lived hero of the brief history of the GDR’s humanitarian knowledge, Ernst Bloch, will flash by.

Meanwhile, in Brunov’s context realism, as I will try to show, does not look all that innocuous and means quite decent things associated with the early period of the development of contemporary art studies. They owe their still quite decent image, it should be remembered, to, among other things, the German phenomenology of the first decades of the last century with its “going back to the things themselves” (rei). So in this quite specific case the aforementioned “principle of realism” could mean, in addition to direct gestures towards prevalent ideology, a covert reference to (furtive glance at) an earlier period in the professional career of our author, a period that was not quite Soviet and for this reason was strictly scholarly (one just visualizes Brunov leafing through Husserl’s Philosophy as Rigorous Science or studying Sedlmayr’s “Towards a Rigorous Study of Art”).

I will begin with the professional career I mentioned above, while remembering to return to that “archaic” which, characteristically, thanks precisely to its archaic nature, retains its historical relevance within the depths of any historicism, even a most ahistorical one, which seems to have no place in the expanses of history but which, contrary to everything, is still there, if only to reawaken memories of something else, something bigger, better and truly historical…

Life, Work and Aliases[2]

Nikolai Brunov was born in 1898 and died in 1971 on the same day, November 25. He had an impressive record and remarkable credentials. His was a life story of an impeccably secure and unquestionably well-intentioned Soviet scholar. He was a professor of the department of history of architecture and urban planning at the Moscow Architectural Institute (1932-1971), full member of the USSR Academy of Architecture and Construction (1952-1962) and Doctor of Art Studies (1943). He received the Order of Lenin for his work in higher school and on the occasion of his 55th birth anniversary(!).

In his youth Brunov took an external degree from Moscow University, defending his diploma on “The Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius” (under A.I. Nekrasov’s supervision) in 1920 and joined the staff of the Museum of Fine Arts (currently the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts) as an assistant department curator. Upon passing exams for the master’s degree he was enrolled as a research associate 1st class of the Institute of Archaeology and Art Studies of the Russian Association of Scientific Research Institutes of Social Sciences (RANION, 1921-1931).

Brunov traveled extensively in the USSR and abroad: in 1924 he explored monuments of Constantinople, Nicaea, and Trabzon.

In 1926 he became a corresponding member, then full member of the State Academy of Arts. He read lectures at Moscow University (privat-docent since 1926), VKhUTEIN (senior lecturer since 1926), Higher Construction Engineering School (from January 1932 to July 1933) and the Moscow Architectural Institute of (from 1926). His scholarly publications first appeared in 1924.[3]

Local history experts somewhere in the Bogorodsky district outside Moscow still keep memories of the once successful merchant family of the Brunovs, who lost everything overnight after the 1917 revolution. Those were relatives on the father’s side whereas the possible German roots on the mother’s side are a matter of speculation, although with a high degree of probability.

An important milestone in his life story was a research tour of Italy, France, Germany, and Austria in 1929. It was not empty handed, so to speak, that he came to Germany and Austria: he had already made a name in the scholarly community and was not a stranger to German colleagues: shortly afterwards, in 1932, M.A. Alpatov’s and his book on the history of early Russian art would come out in German.[4] Together with his co-author Alpatov, Brunov was a notable figure in the history of the so-called New Vienna School of Art History. His contributions appeared in Kunstwissenschaftlicher Forschungen, the movement’s organ which published programmatic texts and manifestos of phenomenological and Gestalt-structural analysis. It was to that school that the young Brunov undoubtedly belonged: in the very first volume of that organ he published a very important text, although under the pseudonym Georgias Andreades,[5] which, incidentally, complemented his other pseudonym, Nicolaus Brunov. Both pseudonyms, one Greek and the other Latin, are like two roots going down through the Middle Ages into the fertile soil of the selfsame Antiquity.

Meanwhile, dualism of a very different sort could be observed on the surface of Soviet reality: there were two Brunovs, as it were, one formerly European and the other already totally local, and his texts themselves testified to this unfortunate but typical circumstance…

III. The Beginning: Structural Analysis of Art Facts

The text I am analysing was published posthumously (the acknowledgements note specifically that Prof. Brunov has just passed away).[6] So it undoubtedly is an artefact and commendable example of domestic writing on art. We should take note of the fact that the translation into German was done by Lena Schöche from the Russian manuscript, which means that the book was not published in Russian.[7]

A special subject that we leave on the sidelines is the terminological contribution of the German translator, known for her translations of El Lissitsky’s texts and The Short History of Art. In any case, we cannot wholeheartedly believe that thanks to translation into German a distinguished Soviet professor and bearer of orders, conversant in the typical Soviet scholarly “new speak” larded with professional jargon could turn into a covert gestalt structuralist, although this inference is not devoid of a measure of entertainment if not reality. Moreover, the ideological and terminological filters of the German translator undoubtedly were not as crude as those of Soviet authors and especially editors.

The entire contents of the book lie between the first and last (21st) chapters: “The Structure and Development of a Building as an Artwork” and “Are There Any Architecture Development Laws?” Let us scan the basics of the first and last chapters.

“Architecture forms the outer shell of human life and society. Buildings organise this life and mirror it with their outer Gestalt (durch ihre äussere Gestalt). There are relations of mutual exchange both between architectural forms and man as a measure of all things and between those two and the surroundings of the building, just as nature in general. It is these relations that make a work of construction art a connecting link between man and his natural environment <…> The history of architecture breaks down into two fields of knowledge complementing each other. One field is the ‘fact-based’ architectural history. <…> various other disciplines are of great importance to it <…>. while the building itself is the most important source of information. The other field of architectural history actually begins where the first one ends. Its goal is the interpretation of the obtained facts or, essentially, the interpretation of the artwork per se” (p. 4).

Please note that the text puts it straightforwardly: art and, most important, its interpretation begin where factual knowledge ends, that is, where it waives its rights and privileges. It appears that the goal of that second architectural history is the interpretation of the “obtained facts”, and it turns out that the interpretation of facts is a way of achieving an artwork as such.

Indeed, it is other disciplines, other sectors (“branches”) of humanities (and not only humanities) knowledge that possess facts and provide them to art studies. And they have their own object of interest, research, and interpretation. Art studies (history of art) seems to be on the back burner: to them facts are just raw materials, although they have been obtained with time and effort. They are a creation, a product of the creative effort of other disciplines, which, on the one hand, are quite respectable (take philology, sociology or history), while on the other patently auxiliary in terms of the interests of art studies!

Therefore, factology not merely collects facts scattered here and there, hidden, or concealed for some reason, forgotten by someone, or merely shoved into the far nooks of memory. For this reason, factology is not pure archaeology, including with respect to the history of, among others, architecture. One should not assume that facts are like artefacts and that history excavates facts just as archaeology unearths artefacts. Facts are not mushrooms, or berries, or nuts! Facts are not grown but produced, they are the output of historians, for example. Facts are a sort of meta-artefacts, or more precisely, “textual facts”, and Brunov de facto unobtrusively offers his readers to reckon with this covert discursiveness.

So perhaps, not only facts are produced, but the artwork itself is generated; it is made by the historian of art just as de facto events are made by ordinary historians (and, incidentally, as artists make artworks!)

And here we come to the most remarkable and specific things. Like any branch of history, the history of architecture has two aspects (“aspect” is a terminologically significant and phenomenologically relevant concept). If you want to substantiate the true history of some object, in the first place you need to know what this object is from the point of view of its basic features, what is invariantly substantive about it and what can be categorized as “particulars”.

Here we come to the question of exploring the essence (das Wesen) of the building. Indeed, while one is preoccupied with facts, he does not concern himself with the essence or even think about it (p. 5). But you cannot outline the history of a thing unless you know its true character. There are two aspects: essence and character. These are preliminary notices preparing the stage for the appearance of the two key words: “structural analysis”. The building and historical observation of its structures are two particular but inseparably interrelated spheres of the same science. It is also necessary to understand, the author of the book reminds us, that structural analysis is impossible without regard for historical development.

All these undoubtedly are echoes, reflections or merely half-obliterated traces of the gestalt-phenomenological principles of the Vienna School of Art History of the 1920s-1930s, just as is the second aspect under discussion, the true “character” of the artwork, which behaves one way or another and has its own behavioural features. And it is the meeting of the interpreter with this “character”, which is also “explicit” (Sedlmayr), in addition to everything else, that makes him turn to structural analysis.

What we have is a complete phenomenon, that is, a building, and it a priori has a complex structure that has as its basis the goal-setting of the building (which is, in a way, an neo-Kantian term and an echo of formalism of the Fiedler-Hildebrand variety). Structural elements and building materials are also mentioned as means towards implementing the “architectonic programme”. But those who view these means as the basis of architectural forms would be badly mistaken (p. 6), Brunov observes (here we cannot help recalling Riegl and his polemic against Semper, just as other Vienna School realities[8]).

The point is that with regard, first, to goal-setting, second, to the function of the building and, third, to its structural characteristics the superstructure forms its “artistic statement”. We can certainly recognize the Vitruvian triad here. Interestingly, it has “special significance” (p. 6) for the constructed work as an “artwork”, because this superstructure “impacts not only reversely on the structure of the building, but often also on its function” (Ibid.). The most fundamental observation here is as follows:

“Architectural composition is a relationship of interchange between the above  three factors, so the artistic statement, with the help of which the functionally well-conceived and solidly assembled building becomes a work of art, ought to be considered as the foundation of architectural composition” (Ibid.).

Therefore, architectural composition arises out of the interaction of those three factors/aspects of the building, and this interaction manifests itself also as their loud conversation, so to speak, between themselves, which makes it a statement, a dialogue-trialogue, overheard by that same observer who thus becomes a listener and, consequently, interpreter of such architectonic auto-rhetoric, if we call things by their proper names. In simpler terms, architectural composition is equivalent to textual (literary) composition and, accordingly, can be material for interpretation (which also has a verbal/textual form).

In other words, if a building talks to us (architecture parlante!), we also can speak its language or offer it a language of our own. All these methodological underpinnings, quite progressive for the 1920s-30s, are undoubtedly present in the text that remained a manuscript until the early 1970s and cannot but evoke a sense of slightly sad respect for its belatedness, to put it mildly, in the context of the world theory of art. But we suggest taking an “archaic” (in the good sense of the word) view of these commonplace and therefore textbook truths of contemporary art and architecture studies, which have passed the rigorous test of critical discourse analysis: these truths are initial and tentative and therefore irrefutable!

The End: Cyclicity, Capitalism and the Life of Time

And here we come right to the last chapter. We are within a distinct framework formed by two clearly conceptual parts of the text, which frame all that factuality the status of which, as we have just learned, is very problematic because it is fictitious.

The question in the heading of the last chapter of the book – “Are There Any Architecture Development Laws?” – echoes rather hot polemics with Brunov’s contemporaries and Wölfflin’s followers, primarily Paul Frankl[9] and Ernst Cohn-Wiener.[10] Brunov reproduces the “cyclical theory” of the development of architecture in considerable detail (pp. 341-344) to avoid being suspected of a serious attitude to, if not sympathy for stylistic formalism. He finds only one fault, as a matter of fact, and strictly speaking, it is quite formal: disregard for “the progressive trends of world architecture” (p. 345). As for a way of recognizing this “progress”, it looks even more arbitrary: Brunov suggests using a “qualitative assessment” of architecture, which implies not merely an evaluation of an individual building, but focus on those fundamentals which “contribute to the appearance and development of one certain phenomenon, namely, the conjunction of architecture with the life of the time which gave birth to it” (Ibid).  

Brunov will shortly link this approach to “cultural and historical prerequisites” (Ibid.), but slightly earlier, as if seeking to tell the attentive reader something else, he counters Wölfflin’s formalism not with cultural and historical positivism of the previous century (of which Marxism was a variety). As if in passing he mentions “certain representative of the Vienna School of Art History, especially scholars such as Riegl, Dvořák and their disciples (!) who have accomplished a great deal” (Ibid.). 

Mention of unnamed disciples (they are Brunov’s associates of the 1920s-30s I spoke about at the beginning of my text) clearly contrasts with the rest, which is a quite formal and ideologically tagged presentation of the idea that the cycle of architectural development did not include the “progressive” architecture of socialism. Although here too, if desired, one could discern the almost invisible traces of the selfsame Sedlmayr with his not merely “qualitative”, but pointedly “moral and aesthetical” criticism of the trends of the contemporary times. Brunov explicitly blames the decline of architecture on “rationalists and egoists, people of power” (p. 346), which is a rather broad category of enemies of humanism to include, for example, the Soviet “ubermenschen” whom the author of the book, unfortunately, knew firsthand.

Nevertheless, by the very end of the book the author seems to check himself and his closing phrases sound pointedly well-meaning and almost ridiculously conciliatory:

“The architects of our time and of the future must bear in mind that the architectural development of mankind has known two major trends – the architecture of the Orient and the architecture of Western Europe – and also the synthesis of the universal principles of those two trends in the architecture of the Greek Antiquity of Eastern Europe. Of great importance, too, is the fact that at all times the genuine and deepest source of architecture as art was folk architecture, which served man by its natural, organic attitude to nature and which, being far removed from any one-sidedness, found expression in the unity of the rational and intuitive aspects of the art of construction” (pp. 348-349).

Incidentally, in this case Eastern Europe as the heir to the East European Antiquity, as follows from the book, is not only Byzantium and Early Rus, but perhaps also Austria (in the garb of the Habsburgian Third Rome as represented by Vienna) and Germany (not necessarily dressed in the gestalt of the “Thousand Year Reich”, simultaneously a next one (there were so many of  them!) and again the Third).

Then the West means France and, perhaps, England. All this ideological geography had long been the standard of the German-language popular and populist rhetoric of the last and even the last but one century, which allegedly was culturally and historically crucified, according to the end of the book, by merciless capitalism.

In a similar vein, the discussion of folk architecture and attitude to nature is a not very rich cocktail of Hegel and Semper: such things had been written a hundred years before Brunov and, perhaps, without any need to translate into German because for Kugler, Hotho or Schnaase it was the native tongue. Just as it was for the German Romanticists, who Germanized (not without help from Herder and Goethe) Winckelmann famous for his knowledge of only one people, the Hellenes, and who discovered the “organics” of the Antiquity and linked it to the selfsame European Romanesque (after all, early Russian architecture, so dear to Brunov's heart in his own interpretation, is its slightly more Eastern version, not without a dash of Byzantinism (Second Rome!)).

This is how the author finalizes and fatalizes his narration, in the spirit of The Lost Centre turned inside out (with a recognizable and famous ending mentioning eschatological throes in the face of the “vacant throne”:

“…the rule of capitalism in Europe led to the decline of architecture as art. We live at a time when this decline is being gradually overcome and when architecture is again becoming an art. This process will not be completed for a long time yet, and to attain this goal the art of construction is yet to cover an arduous road” (p. 349).

Strictly speaking, the text does not contain all those ritualistic incantatory Soviet/Marxist mantras blasting capitalism. We can even say that in the entire text there is nothing that would be ideologically Soviet, domestic or of the Early Rus, and this is what explains its effect. If we do not know the identity of the author as we read it in German or even if his name were spelled with a double n (Brunnow), we could well have imagined that it had been written by a German speaker with Vienna or Munich-Berlin leanings, though not without Marxist influences, quite in the spirit of the innocuous Arnold Hauser.[11]  

Nevertheless, together with the author of the book under review we are to come across certain paradoxes of Hegelian historicism based, as we know, on the assumption that virtually all historical processes are ruinous as their end is death, without any alternative. A strange question arises here: what then is architecture at the point when it has not yet become art again? Indeed, the completion of the process of the emergence of architecture as an art is Brunov’s important premise relating to the 19th century. Since that point it was in decline, with the new expected any day now, when the still “rolled up” socialist architecture would unfold. But this intermission presupposes not simply a stop, a sort of historical “smoke break”: any decline reaches its logical and dialectical end, which since the 1830s had been known as “the death of art”. The ghost of Hegel keeps roaming the lanes and passages, if not expanses of European (and not only European) art history while confidence of the ordeal yet to come sounds hopelessly ominous in the context of the history of not only architecture, but also of Soviet art studies.

The main thing is something else though. The renunciation of cyclicity in this context is fraught with new problems: the postulate of through movement – through the wasteland of “decomposing” capitalism towards “florescence” –  merely anticipated and bequeathed, as it were, and for this reason coveted  – exactly registers the moment of “the sickness unto death” (in the parlance of Kierkegaard, Veidle and Sedlmayr).

This registering is textual, absolutely corresponding to the Hegelian scheme and presupposing – right after death – ascent to a new logical (semantic) level: we need not wait for socialist architecture to flourish while staying and idling away the time in the intermediate zone of timeless ideological myths. We can admit the death of earlier architecture, but after this sad, albeit inescapable circumstance there comes the time of already not art but its history, not architecture but architecture studies.

That is why Brunov’s book is written and published in the same state of Aufhebung that is concretized as a metaphorical metamorphosis, as a transcribed text and transcription of concepts. In another guise and different language and even gestalt this text lays bare its primary levels, those of a distinctly shown progress of an epistemological sort.

…It is symptomatic that the German edition has no illustrations beyond the Petit Trianon. Actually, it brings the illustrative material of the book to a close, and we will find no visuals as regards the 19th century with its rule of capitalism. It looks like from that moment on everything is virtual and just at the level of wording. One more clue as to where and how art studies end as a science, let alone architecture as art…

One can assume that it was all written, so to speak, as an afterthought and added, as it were, in order to gain the needed ideological legitimacy. The coarse and stilted language of those trite statements are short of the binding rules of the game: look, I’m really one of you, I’ve duly perpetrated a breach of good taste and lost all sense of proportion and no longer remember the methodological precepts of friends from the old days (I just don’t know them and can’t care less!). To the present-day reader this is an unwitting sign of insincerity and lack of authenticity, like an obscenity cut into a tree trunk (often out of boredom or anguish).

The text that had just been elevated to the level of meta art (in view of the death of art as such) was not so much “taken down” as simply “profaned” while retaining, let me reiterate it, its link with something sought out yet, paradoxically, stuck (or hidden) in the past (some crypto-Kunstkammer of dead methods).

The Middle: The Diaphaneia of Heavenly Jerusalem

As is known, mankind did not live to see purely socialist architecture or simply broke through all the “sots-isms”. That is why we can still read Brunov’s text without being wary of a similarity with the past (the Vienna School of Art History) or being afraid of a kindred future (the obligatory and inexorable synchronization of Russian-language art studies with those common among the rest of the world).

The proof of the reality of this retrospect and prospect consists in my most important observations. The thing is that at the level of unconditional indexicality and simultaneously epistemological symbolism right in the middle of the book (pp. 180-181), when it comes to the Gothic cathedral, the reader is surprised to find something that, it seems to me, is deliberately hidden, intimate and innermost. Quite in the spirit of Sedlmayr’s Die Entstehung der Kathedrale (The Origins of the Cathedral, 1951) the author writes about Gothic architecture precisely what should be written about it, if we want (like the authors of that type of terminology –  Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Jantzen, Hans Sedlmayr, and others) to convey, say, our commitment to the Catholic “liturgical renaissance” with its characteristic mysticism coupled with modernist theology. We come across the Heavenly Jerusalem down on earth (p. 180) and, what is most remarkable and significant, an entire paragraph dealing with the diaphanous structure (which is not frequently encountered even in historiography to which this notion[12] is not a stranger).

“Capable of being seen through, the ‘diaphanous’ nature of the Gothic creation of the art of construction corresponded to the ideals of the detachment of the world that existed at that time and found their reflection in the art of poetry before architectonic gestalt caught up with them” (Ibid.).

While pointing out that the cathedral was pervaded with mysticism and “the fickle play of emotional and rational elements” (Ibid.), the author, as it seems, is unwittingly infused with some historiographical mysticism, unobtrusively repeating the postulates of Jantzen and Sedlmayr that were the best in their intellectual “magic”:

“The extraordinary effect of stained glass consists in that the viewer in the inner space of the cathedral is surrounded by the materialized and at the same time spiritual colour medium. He seems to be bathing in polychrome colour spots filling the entire space…” (pp. 181-182).

One should understand how many meaningful references there are to Jantzen’s mediality of colour,[13] Sedlmayr’s pre-structure macchia (spot)[14] and the entire gestalt-structuralism that makes it possible to immerse the real viewer in a bath (or baptismal font?) of purely perceptive – pre-figurative! – and strictly two-dimensional relations!

That is why, given the background of the concealed and secret middle described above, the “arduous road” mentioned in the end is covered not only by art and not only by the now Soviet and one-time European art historian, but by art studies as such. All efforts of Bolshevist Soviet aesthetics are futile: at the westernmost frontier of the socialist reserve zone the “fraternal” GDR stored a reflexive memory – at the level of terms, concepts, and translation habit – about altogether different art studies…

No doubt, all branches of this knowledge, these Zweige, these branching disciplines can in one way or another be subjected to pruning (to continue using gardening terminology) so as to correspond to, for instance, new ideas of “strict science of art” (Karl Swoboda, Hans Sedlmayr, Otto Pächt and, in the long run, Ernst Gombrich) or the attempts, as old as the hills, to survive in an ideologically dangerous environment (N. Brunov, M. Alpatov, V. Lazarev).

But who in this case is responsible (if at all) for this characteristic, to put it mildly, disparity between what one knows and thinks and what one says and writes? What “breeders” made sure that the German and quite socialist edition of the Soviet author knows of “diaphaneia” and “gestalt” while the domestic academic scholarly art “discourse” quite sincerely, even today, shies away from this terminology – as something alien not even ideologically or even methodologically, but purely psychologically as a matter of course – as unessential empty talk in the closed atmosphere as it is?

What can be grafted on to replace the broken or dry branches? And is the problem with branches? Could it be that the fig tree has already withered away (Matt 21:19)? Isn’t it time to plant new seedlings or sow new seed (cf. Matt 13:3, etc.)? But on what soil? And could it indeed be done at random? Wherefrom should this “planting material” be brought and who is to take care of what is sown and planted? Where are they, those perpetual sowers and new “wise master builders” (1 Cor 3:10)?

Such questions are a classic of any epistemological exegesis, yet they do not seem at all idle precisely due to their nearly archaic relevance…

Perhaps, as distinct from the “New Middle Ages”, the new Antiquity holds out a promise of a new renaissance and


[1] Nikolai Brunow. Entwicklungsetappen der Architektur. Übersetzung Lena Schöche. VEB Verlag der Kunst. Dresden, 1972. All quotes with references in the text are given per this publication.

[2] I summarize Brunov’s biography from A.L. Batalov’s entry in the Orthodox Encyclopaedia with a useful input from Andrei Puchkov’s slightly fictionalized biographical essay “Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov, arkhitekturologicheskii komparativist. Ocherk iz istorii arkhitekturovodeniia” [Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov, an Architecturological Comparativist. Essay from the History of Architecture Studies]. Suchasni problemi doslidzhennia, restavratsii ta zberezhennia kulturnoi spadshchiny. IPSM NAM of Ukraine, Kyiv, Feniks, 2012, Issue 8, pp. 390-403. Overall, the bibliography of texts about Brunov is as follows: E. Andrianov, “Brunovskiie kovry” [Brunov’s Carpets], Bogorodskiie vesti, No. 21, 1995, Noginsk; Yu.N. Gerasimov, “Vydaiushchiisia istorik arkhitektury: K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia N.I. Brunova (1898-1971) [Outstanding Historian of Architecture: Towards N.I. Brunov’s Birth Centenary (1898-1971)], Arkhitekturnaia nauka v MARKhI, Moscow, 1999; N.O. Dushkina, “Pamiati Nikolaia Ivanovicha Brunova (K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia)” [In Memory of Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov (Towards Birth Centenary)], Ezhegodnik MARKhI, ‘98/99, Moscow, 1999; A.I. Komech, “Pamiati  Nikolaia Ivanovicha Brunova” [In Memory of Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov], Vizantiiskii vremennik, Vol. 34, 1973; I.L. Kyzlasova, Istoriia otechestvennoi nauki ob iskusstve Vizantii i Drevnei Rusi: 1920-1930 gody (Po materialam arkhivov) [A History of Domestic Studies of the Art of Byzantium and Ancient Rus: 1920s-1930s (Based on Archive Materials], Moscow, 2000; A.N. Liubavin, “Uchionyi, kakogo eshchio ne bylo u nas[A Scholar the Like of Whom We Have Not Yet Had], Pravoslavnaia Moskva, No. 5, 2000; A.N. Liubavin, “Stoletiie N.I. Brunova” [N.I. Brunov’s Birth Centenary], Moskovskii zhurnal, No. 4, 1999; T.F. Savarenskaia, D.O. Shvidkovskii “Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov: K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia” [Nikolai Ivanovich Brunov: Towards Birth Centenary], Arkhitekturnyi vestnik, No. 5 (44), 1998, Moscow; T.V. Sedunova, “N.I. Brunov kak predtecha ‘ikonologii arkhitektury’” [N.I. Brunov As a Forerunner of “the Iconology of Architecture”], Izvestiia Rossiiskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta im. A.I. Gertsena, Issue 58, 2008, Moscow. Alpatov’s memoirs (M.V. Alpatov, “Vospominaniia: Tvorcheskaia sudba. Semeinaia khronika. Gody ucheniia. Goroda i strany. Liudi iskusstva.” [Memoirs: Scholar’s Life. Family Chronicles. Years of Studies. Cities and Countries. People of the Arts. Moscow, 1994] are a stand-alone but not unquestionable source. 

[3] Here is a list of Brunov’s key publications; it clearly reflects the gradual disappearance of publications in foreign languages, which was the fate of virtually all of Soviet art scholars: “K voprosu o tak nazyvaiemom ‘russkom barokko’’’ [Apropos So-called Russian Baroque], in Barokko v Rossii, Moscow, 1926, pp. 43-55; “Model iierusalimskogo khrama, privezionnaia v 17 v. v Rossiiu” [Model of a Jerusalem Cathedral Brought to Russia in the 17th Century], Soobshcheniia Rossiiskogo Palestinskogo obshchestva, Issue 29, 1926, Leningrad, pp. 139-148; “Die Panagiakirche auf Insel Chalki in der Umgebung von Konstantinopel’’, BNGJ. 1926-1928. Bd. 6. S. 509-520; “Die fünfschiffige Kreuzkuppelkirche in der byzantinischen Baukunst’’, BZ. 1927. Bd. 27. S. 63-98; “Une église byzantine à Chersonèse’’, L'art byzantine chez les Slaves, part. 3, Paris, 1930, pp. 25-34; Ocherki po istorii arkhitektury [Essays on the History of Architecture] in two volumes. Moscow, Leningrad, 1935-1937 (reprinted, Moscow, 2002); Albom arkhitekturnykh stilei (Book of Architectural Styles), Moscow, 1937; Dvortsy Frantsii XVII i XVIII vv. (Palaces of France of the 17th and 18th Centuries], Moscow, 1938; “Kiievskaia Sofiia – drevneishii pamiatnik russkoi arkhitektury” [Kiev Saint Sophia: the Earliest Monument of Russian Architecture], Vizantiiskii vremennik, Vol. 3, 1950, pp. 154-200; Mastera drevnerusskogo zodchestva [Masters of Early Russian Architecture], Moscow, 1953; “Arkhitektura Vizantii” [Architecture of Byzantium], in Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury [World History of Architecture], Vol. 3, Moscow, Leningrad, 1966, pp. 16-160; Khram Vasiliia Blazhennogo v Moskve: Pokrovskii Sobor [St. Basil’s in Moscow: Cathedral of the Intercession of the Theotokos], Moscow, 1988.   

[4] Geschichte der altrussischen Kunst. Augsburg, 1932 (reprinted in London-New York in 1969). In less than ten years (1924-1934) he published almost 40 articles, essays and reviews in major European languages in the key periodicals on art studies, plus about 20 publications in Russian; he had only a little more than 20 publications throughout the rest of his life!

[5] Die Sophienkathedrale von Konstantinopel, Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen, I, 1931, S. 33—94.

[6] His next, naturally, also posthumous publication dealt with the Antiquity: Pamiatniki Afinskogo Akropolia. Parfenon, Erekhteion [Monuments of the Athens Acropolis. The Parthenon, Erechtheion], Moscow, 1973. For Brunov’s other “Antiquity” texts see: Gretsiia (Arkhaika, klassika, IV vek) [Greece (Archaics, Classics, 4th Century)], Moscow, 1935; Erechtheion, Moscow, 1938; Ocherki po istorii arkhitektury [Essays on the History of Architecture], in 3 volumes. Moscow; Leningrad, 1935. Vol. 2: Gretsiia. Rim. Vizantiia [Greece. Rome. Byzantium] (reprinted, Moscow, 2003).

[7] The connection to Ocherki po istorii arkhitektury [Essays on the History of Architecture] (1935-37] is a separate problem. The book under review undoubtedly is a different text, written most probably after the war: it contains not only material from the European Middle Ages and Modern Times, but an obvious conceptual background totally absent from the prewar text (for example, the characteristics of ancient Greek “democracy”: Vol. 2 [2002], pp. 52-62). 

[8] Among the latest publications about Vienna School realities see: S.S. Vaneyan. “Venskaia shkola iskusstvoznania: Orient order Wien?” [Vienna School of Art History: Orient order Wien?], Iskusstvoznanie.2019. №2_, pp. 10-43.

[9] Paul Frankl. Die Entwicklungsphasen der Neuern Baukunst. B. G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1914. English-language publication: Principles of Architectural History: The Four Phases of Architectural Style, 1420-1900, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1968.

[10] Ernst Cohn-Wiener. Die Entwicklungsgeschichte der Stile in der bildenden Kunst. 2 Bände. Teubner, Leipzig, 1910. Translated into Russian in 1916. In 1924 this author visited the USSR and Central Asia (perhaps, on exchange: Brunov would soon travel to Germany).

[11] Arnold Hauser, Sozialgeschichte der Kunst und Literatur, 1951.

[12] See the latest conceptual and historiographical observations on the theme: S.S. Vaneyan, “Jantzen i Sedlmayr ili volshebstvo diafanicheskogo. K istokam sovremennykh kontseptsii liturgicheskogo prostranstva” [Jantzen and Sedlmayr, or the Miracle of the Diaphanic. To the Sources of Contemporary Concepts of Liturgical Space], in The History of Art and Rejected Knowledge: From the Hermetic Tradition to the 21st Century. Collection of articles. Eds. E.A. Bobrinskaya, A.S. Korndorf. Moscow, State Institute for Art Studies, 2018, pp. 365-403. Ibid., the whole of bibliography pertaining also to the aforementioned authors. For the latest news on diaphaneia see “Ich komme zum Schluss”: Jantzen und Sedlmayr oder das Diaphane unter dem Baldachin, in S. Vaneyan. Das Diaphane: Architektur und ihre Bildlichkeit (ArchitekturDenken). Berlin: Transcript Verlag. 2019, S. 73–85.

[13] A bottomless theme going back to Aristotle and up to our day via Thomas Aquinas and Joyce. See the Russian translation of Hans Jantzen, “O tserkovnom prostranstve v gotike” [On Gothic Church Space], in Arkhitektura – iazyk, istoriia, teoriia [Architecture: Language, History, Theory]. A Collection of translations, part 2, Moscow, 2011, pp. 376-392.

 [14] See S.S. Vaneyan, “Bruegel-Sedlmayr-Imdahl: slepoie piatno interpretatsii” [Bruegel-Sedlmayr-Imdahl: The Blind Spot of Interpretation], in Pamiat kak object i instrument iskusstvoznania [Memory as the Subject and Instrument of Art Studies]. Collection of articles. Eds. E.A. Bobrinskaya, A.S. Korndorf. Moscow, State Institute for Art Studies, 2016, pp. 86-99. The Russian translation: Hans Sedlmayr, Pieter Bruegel: Der Sturz der Blinden. Translated by S.S. Vaneyan, Logos, No. 106, pp. 16-57.