Menshikov


An iconic figure, Alexander Menshikov has interested the sculptor as an individual rather than as a statesman. The statue represents the crucial moment in his life when the statesman, still in power, anticipates his forthcoming fall. So unstable and mercurial is Menshikov’s pose that it appears that his hunched and uncomfortably-seated figure is in the grip of an uncontrollable convulsion. Depicting the figure seated on a chair resembling a throne, the artist emphasizes the points necessary for an accurate rendition of the image: a strong forward slant of the body; the legs that seem to lack bearing and dangle from the stepped plinth, ending up with feet in long-pointed shoes; a lean armchair with curved, almost shaky legs, Menshikov perched on the edge of the seat; the bony hands with nervously twitching fingers; the turn of the head skewing the wig. This bundle of restlessness is dominated by a massive head, which is probably the composition’s only element in a notably steady position, albeit achieved through exertion. The focused expression on the heavily-lined face surprises the viewer with its intellectual vigour, and yet this intellect is no longer able to regain its former fortitude in the light of changing circumstances. Nevertheless Menshikov’s irrepressible will power, conveyed through the sharp shifts in the figure’s axes and rhythms, offers some hope that the ostracised governor will hold out in the face of misfortune.

 

 

 

Brief annotations to the image

MENSHIKOV, ALEXANDER DANILOVICH (1673 — 1729), was a high-ranking Russian statesman and military commander, one of Peter the Great’s closest associates who de-facto ruled over Russia after the emperor’s death (until 1727). He went down in history as a person naturally endowed with an inquiring mind and intense vitality and a loyal companion of Peter I. He achieved a lot but lost everything at the end of his life, when he and his family were exiled to the village of Berezov, where he died.