Fortified with a cup of their smooth brew, I started my walk to the Benois branch of the Russian Museum. Only a ten minute stroll, but by the time I passed the Church on the Spilled Blood, rain was pelting down. Despite rain boots, raincoat and sturdy umbrella, my jeans were going from damp to drenched. It was raining so hard water bounced up from the cobblestones and riccocheted from the surface of the canal. I sloshed onward as far as Café Berlin where I stopped for an early lunch, in hopes the downpour would ease up.
I ordered a burger, a sure sign that I’m missing home. It arrived, pretty as a picture, but it was like a burger made by someone who’d read about them and seen photographs, but hadn’t actually eaten one. The sesame seed bun was as dry and crisp like a meringue. The meat, while tasty, had an odd, pebbled texture, and was topped with pesto and pickles. I asked for a cheese burger and they slapped on mozzarella. Fries were great.
Sure enough, the sun came blazing out and I hoofed it to the Russian Museum of Art. A completely different experience from the Hermitage – less formal, less crowded (praise all the Russian Saints), and more relaxed. The change of pace was welcome. The art wasn’t as spectacular, but more than one piece made it not only worthwhile, but gave me reasons to return. I adored this painting of Phryne. I circled back to it twice, and sat on a bench and absorbed what I could. Similar to the Slav epic in scale (huge) but more celebratory. Thanks, Semiradsky.
As always, I noticed the dogs, like this jaunty, backlit fellow.
And, according to the museum note, this naughty satyr is just being helpful, tying the nymph’s sandals. Riiiight.
I overheard a guide tell five military officers that it’s from a Russian folktale. The knight must choose his direction. If he goes right, women and marriage. If he turns left, he’ll have wealth and land. If he rides straight ahead, war and death. He chooses the straight ahead path. I couldn’t help but mutter, if he picked the right woman he could have marriage, wealth, and all the fighting he wanted. Probably great makeup sex too. One of the military guys cracked a smile. They weren’t Americans or Russians, or they wouldn’t have had an English speaking guide.
It reminded me of the painting in the Musée d’Orsay of a defeated cavalry solder riding home through fields of tulips, lance dragging, head bowed. The way I often feel after a full museum day, dragging my ass home through a field of glorious beauty. So much art, so little time. But I forgot one of the best attributes of this museum.
I had planned to walk through the connected wing of the Benois, but fatigue overruled me. I sensibly walked to my dinner place, and after an excellent risotto, called it a day. Tomorrow, return to the Hermitage.