Ivan Martos

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Ivan Martos's statue of Duc de Richelieu in Odessa
I.P. Martos (Portrait by P.O. Rossi)

Ivan Petrovich Martos (Russian: Иван Петрович Мартос; Ukrainian: Іван Петрович Мартос; 1754 — 5 April 1835) was a Russian sculptor and art teacher of Ukrainian origin who helped awaken Russian interest in Neoclassical sculpture.

Martos was born near Poltava and enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Arts between 1764 and 1773. He was then sent to further his education with Pompeo Batoni and Anton Raphael Mengs in Rome. Upon his return to Russia in 1779, Martos started to propagate the ideas of Neoclassicism. He executed a large number of marble tombs, which are often regarded as the finest in the history of Russian art.

Enjoying the patronage of the Russian royalty, Martos held a professorship at the Imperial Academy of Arts since 1779 and became its dean in 1814. His main claim to fame is the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square, conceived in 1804 but not inaugurated until 1818. Owing to the many years he spent on this one work, Martos did not produce much other sculpture in the period. He died at St Petersburg.

His later outdoor sculptures - those of Duke de Richelieu above the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa, Prince Potemkin in Kherson, Alexander I in Taganrog, and Mikhail Lomonosov in Kholmogory - became the symbols of those towns, although modern art critics often compare them unfavorably with his earlier, less bombastic works.

During the Soviet period Martos's memorial statues - including those of Nikita Panin and his family - were snatched from the cemeteries to be exhibited in the newly set up museums, while his colossal bronze statue of Catherine II, unveiled at the top of the Moscow Nobility Column Hall in 1812, was destroyed altogether.

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