The Leonards’ house and studio
9, Kanatnaya Street
The Leonards’ house is one of the most beautiful city mansions in Odessa, a considerable amount of which was erected at the turn of XIX and XX centuries. The house architecture eloquently illustrates the gradual transition from the dry academism of eclecticism of that time to a more free and sensual form of early Art Nouveau.
Type of building: mansion
Style: modernized eclecticism, Renaissance
Architect: M. I. Linetsky
Date of construction: early XX century
Status: local architectural monument
In most Odessa telephone and address reference books published throughout the1900s, the owners of No. 9 (previously 7) at Kanatnaya Street appear to be the heirs of the Leonards family. More accurate information is given in separate publications. Karl Ivanovich Leonard, who owned a studio of sculpture and marble in the same house, is mentioned among the proprietors of the mansion.
Advertisement of K. I. Leonard’s studio
The mirror factory of Georgy Ivanovich Leonard was located there too. The ownership of both enterprises passed to A. Leger in the second part of 1900s until the revolution.
The advertisement of A. Leger’s enterprise
In the mid 1900s some part of dwelling quarters and office premises were leased out. Shortly before the house proprietors changed, there was a private medical practice of August Aleksandrovich Schwartz in the house (any information about him is lost since 1907).
After 1907 an inspector of the Russian Shipping and Trade Society, Alexander Ivanovich Smirnov, lodged there. A chemical factory, run by an engineer-chemist I. Kramer, moved into No. 9 at Kanatnaya Street between 1907 and 1909. Advertisements of the factory can be found in the reference periodical published before 1913. The factory specialized in fruit essences and food dyes “for foodstuffs, candies, confectionery, liqueurs, syrups, tinned goods, butter, etc.”
The advertisement of I. Kramer’s factory
After the revolution the building didn’t avoid the fate of the most houses in the center of Odessa — redesign and reconstruction due to “compaction”, as a consequence of which nearly all interiors of the mansion were lost. The facade, on the other hand, has survived almost unchanged up to the present day and has preserved even a cartouche with the first house owners’ monogram (“L” —Leonard). By the 2000s the front wing of the building ceased to carry out the residential functions and now offices of different organizations occupy the bigger part of it.
The cultural heritage registry of Odessa contains no information either on the year of construction or the author of the project, however, the house facade is full of details and decorative plastic solutions typical for the early works of M. I. Linetsky. It is not difficult to trace the analogy with his two other creations of that time — the apartment house of Korone at 7 Kanatnaya Street (in collaboration with G. F. Lonsky, 1900—1903) and the house of Ambelikopulo at 7 Didrikhsona Street (1901). Even if the houses of both Korone and Ambelikopulo are stylistically similar to each other, and have some identical elements of decor, the house of Leonard stands out with its individuality and originality of forms preserving the unique style of Linetsky.
A two-storied house occupies a relatively narrow site considerably extended in the depth of the block. The construction consists of the mansion, two outbuildings inside the yard, one of which is perpendicular to the main building and the other is parallel and located in the remote part of the inside area. The first outbuilding adjoins the mansion closely, creating an effect of integrity and continuity due to the similar height. Unlike the main building and the second outbuilding, the first one contains two floors and a semi-basement, and therefore the height of its ceilings is lower.
The main facade composition is balanced and is 11 windows wide. The farthest windows on both sides are paired and split with narrow piers. The accent of the facade is a shallow central avant-corps containing such important elements as sculptures of atlantes on the first floor that hold the balcony consoles and Ionic order columns on the sides of the balcony door.
Atlantes of the central avant-corps
Decor of the central avant-corps on the second floor
The external corners of the balcony are accomplished in the shape of rounded concaves that are replicated in the external corners of the canopy. Above the balcony door there is a semicircular panel decorated with the oval stucco cartouche and the inscribed monogram “L”. The same monogram survived in the central part of the canopy.
Until recently between atlases there was a window, where an entrance to the Leonard’s studio could have been. The evidence is the preserved steps that come out of the wall to the pavement. Afterwards the window opening was rebuilt back to the door.
Along the edges of the facade there are two more avant-corps, the width and depth of which are similar to the central one. The only difference is that in the right-sided avant-corps there is a passage archway to the courtyard. Everything else is identical.
First floor of the left-sided avant-corps, passage arch
First floor of the left-sided avant-corps, paired windows
The paired windows of the lateral avant-corps on the second floor, united by semicircular Renaissance frames, are the most expressive details of the facade. In the upper part of the frames there are big panels decorated with oval cartouches with griffins on their sides. The panels are designed according to the principle of heraldic composition.
In general, both panels are absolutely mirror-like, however, in the cartouche of the left one there is Mercury’s scepter, whereas on the opposite one there are a head of Putto and drawing instruments. Much later a congenial plot appeared on the facade of the E. Y. Mendelevich’s mansion at 28 Marazlievskaya Street (by architect V. I. Prokhaska, 1909). One of the bas-reliefs depicts a Putto measuring distance with compasses on the globe.
Windows of the second floor in the right-sided avant-corps
Windows of the second floor in the left-sided avant-corps
Between two avant-corps the planes of the facade are three windows wide. Windows of both floors are abundantly decorated and the bigger part of the stucco decor elements is characterized by large proportions and high expressiveness.
In the keystones of the first floor windows there are large mascarons of “druids” and lions that alternate between each other. Interestingly, the lions’ mascarons occupy the central axis of each segment that lay in between the avant-corps. The similar technique was applied to the mascarons above the windows on the second floor of the nearby house owned by Korone.
Facade decorations between the avant-corps on the first floor
On both floors the windows casings are rustic. The rust is significantly simplified in the piers. The casings of the second floor are decorated with the flat pediments/cornices, under which the mascarons of anthropomorphous legendary creatures found their place. Their faces are too grotesque to consider them human.
Facade decorations between the avant-corps on the second floor
The front staircase next to the passage archway doesn’t differ in either its size or splendor, although the marble steps are quite remarkable by their width.
The handrails are considered to be budget, however, they are unique in Odessa. The communal stairwell consists of two flights of stairs and a semicircular landing between them. Actually, it is the only place in the house that preserved the elements of the original decoration.
The front staircase
The facade of the yard is in great contrast with the main one. It is devoid of not only decor but casings as well.
Facade of the yard
The outbuildings in the yard look modest too. They still keep the budget eclectic staircases, window frames and retrospective doors. We can assume that the outbuildings had been built before the mansion itself and could be left after the previous building.
Outbuildings of the yard
The wing that adjoins the mansion
In general, the house style is deviated from the usual Odessa eclecticism of the time, clearly demonstrating the gradual style alteration in the I. Linetsky’s works. It is in the design of the Leonards’ mansion the most details and decor elements were applied for the first time. The plastic art of the house reaches the Art Nouveau epoch in its expression. The stylistic tendencies contemplated here reached their peak in the architecture of an apartment house built much later, where the furniture and mirror shop of M. G. Greenberg was located (24, Rishelyevskaya Street, co-authored with S. S. Galperson in 1902).
References and archives
- Landlords reference books “All Odessa” for 1900, 1901, 1902, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1913, 1914.
- An article about the house in the Antique blog (Attribution, historical and regional information)
- User Brassl’s photo archive
- Aleksander Levitsky, art director and colorist
- Dmitry Shamatazhi, photographer and complier
- Marina Tomenko, editor
- Marta Orlovska, translator