Martos, Ivan Petrovich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Martos, Ivan Petrovich


Born 1754 in Ichnia, in present-day Chernigov Oblast, Ukrainian SSR; died Apr. 5 (17), 1835, in St. Petersburg. Russian sculptor.

Martos, the son of a minor Ukrainian landowner, studied under L. Rolland and N. F. Gillet at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1764 to 1773. In 1773 he received a stipend to study and to make copies of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures in Rome, where he had contact with P. Batoni, J. M. Vien, and C. Albacini. He returned to Russia in 1779, having become an advocate of classicism.

In the early 1780’s, Martos did a number of portraits (the busts of N. I. Panin and A. V. Panina; 1780 and 1782, respectively; marble, Tret’iakov Gallery). At the same time he distinguished himself as a master of funerary sculpture, combining civic fervor and idealization of images with fascinating vitality. Martos’ early funerary monuments, such as the tombstones of S. S. Volkonskaia (marble, 1782, Tret’iakov Gallery) and M. P. Sobakina (marble, 1782, A. V. Shchusev Research Museum of Architecture), are marked by orderly composition, subtle modeling, and skillful combination of high and low relief.

Martos subsequently abandoned bas-relief compositions. He set the human figure apart from the sculptural background, thus increasing the artistic effect of the funerary monument as a whole (the tombstones of N. I. Panin and E. S. Kurakina; 1788 and 1792, respectively; marble, Museum of City Sculpture, Leningrad). Continuing to use pyramidal stela with bas-relief portraits of the deceased, the sculptor varied his representations of the mourners, using variously colored marble. Beginning in the early 1790’s, Martos no longer re-created the intimate emotions that had been expressed in his early works. He began to stress the social significance of a monument, using means of expression that were complex and often dramatic.

Martos’ mature works are marked by massive forms, a close relationship to the surrounding architecture, a clear, closed composition, and a simple, expressive silhouette. The emotional impact of these works of the early 1800’s was created by the austere emotional restraint of the figures and by majestic images epitomizing the ancient Greek and Roman ideals of courage and perfect beauty (tombstone of E. I. Gagarina, bronze, 1803, Museum of City Sculpture, Leningrad; tombstone of Paul I, marble and granite, 1807, Mausoleum, Pavlovsk).

The characteristics of Martos’ mature works are most clearly exhibited in the monument to Kuz’ma Minin and Dmitrii Pozharskii in Moscow (bronze and granite, 1804-18), which was built on the initiative of the public. In this work, Martos effectively conveyed the patriotic fervor of the Russian people that had been displayed during the Patriotic War of 1812. This sculptural group has great compositional and emotional unity, which is not destroyed by the dramatic development of action. The monument was originally placed opposite the Kremlin Wall, where its symbolic and spatial ties with Red Square were fully revealed; appealing to Pozharskii to do his duty and handing him a sword, Minin points to the Kremlin with a sweeping gesture. The site chosen for the monument to Armand Emmanuel Richelieu (bronze and granite, 1823-28) in Odessa is also effective. The monument contains many elements that appear in Martos’ later works (monument to Alexander I, Taganrog, bronze and granite, 1828-31): rigidity, excessive generalization of forms, and preoccupation with details.

Martos sculptured other decorative works besides funerary monuments, such as the statute Actaeon for the fountains at Peterhof (gilded bronze, 1801) and the relief Moses Bringing Forth Water in the Desert that embellishes the attic of the Kazan Cathedral in Leningrad (limestone, 1804-07). From 1779 to 1835 he taught at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, becoming its rector in 1814. Martos greatly influenced the development of many Russian sculptors in the first third of the 19th century.


Kovalenskaia, N. Martos. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938.
Alpatov, M. V. “Martos.” In Russkoe iskusstvo 18 veka. Moscow, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.