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Bruni, Fyodor (Fidelio) (Russia, 1799-1875)

Fyodor (Fidelio) Antonovich Bruni (Russian: () ) (June 10, 1799, Milan - August 30 (N.S. September 11), 1875, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian painter of Italian descent. Fyodor Bruni studied in Rome, but returned to Saint Petersburg, where he eventually became director of the Academy of Fine Arts. His principal works are The Death of Camilla , Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, The Brazen Serpent, and various figures in the Cathedral of St. Isaac. From 1866 till his death, he superintended the School of Mosaics at Saint Petersburg.

Bruni was born in 1799 into a family of an Italian artist. He arrived in Russia with his family at the age of six, and Russia became his second motherland. As a student of the Academy of Arts Bruni displayed uncommon talents, and he was sent to Italy to continue his studies together with another painter, Karl Bryullov. In Italy Fyodor Bruni was greatly influenced by artists in whose works Biblical themes prevailed. In 1841 Bruni painted “The Brass Serpent.” The picture was a tremendous success, it was praised in Russia, and even more so in the West. His compatriots preferred Karl Bryullov’s “The Last Day of Pompeii”, though. Bruni was a peerless master of drawing, but the coloring of his picture was gloomier than that of Bryullov’s painting. In contrast with Bryullov, Bruni was a reserved, taciturn, meditative man. In 1836 the Emperor asked Fyodor Bruni to leave Italy and make paintings for the St.Isaac Cathedral in St.Petersburg. The artist devoted nine years of his life to this work. He painted the grandiose picture of the Holy Writ on the cathedral’s walls and dome. According to architect Auguste Montferrand under whose project the cathedral was built, the artistic values of Bruni’s work were equal to those of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. St.Petersburg’s museums boast of many icons and paintings on biblical themes painted by Bruni. His famous canvas depicting Jesus Christ graces the Russian Museum. Christ stands on His knees, leaning on an enormous rock. With His eyes full of tears, He looks at his heavenly father. His face reflects gentleness and suffering, and at the same time childish trust and purity. In the air above Him there is a vision of the Cup that He will have to drink for all of us. It is impossible to look at that image with indifference – reverence fills the souls of those who look at it. Alexander Benois, a connoisseur of Russian art, wrote: “This is a truly religious art, the sanctity of soul, emotion, revelation. Bruni’s talent was larger-than-life: he was peerless not only in Russia but also in the West.”

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