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Landscape, Nature and Architecture

Technological improvements enabled Prince Albert to collect photographs of places that were significant to him

JAMES MACK (1827-64)

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Sep 1856

Albumen print | 24.2 x 25.1 cm (image) | RCIN 2945148

The Coronation of Alexander II, planned for September 1856, was regarded as a diplomatic event of critical importance due to the recent conclusion of the Crimean War. A special diplomatic mission representing Queen Victoria was therefore sent to attend the ceremony. Led by Lord Granville, the party also included a photographer, Corporal Mack of the Royal Engineers, chosen to document the visit. This is one of the nineteen photographs that Mack personally presented to Queen Victoria on their return.

Mack's photograph captures the cathedral with its splendid system of illumination arranged for the Coronation of Alexander II. Another member of the party, Lieutenant Colonel Maude wrote: 'Every dome and every minaret was lighted up in the most beautiful manner […] all the architecture […] showing its outline in glittering lights. They have no gas, but glass pots full of tallow with a wick in them'.

The original building, known as Trinity Church, was designed by Postnik Yakovlev (active 1550-62) and Ivan Barma (active 1554-61) for Ivan IV (the Terrible) in 1554 to commemorate the conquest of Kazan by Muscovite forces. Built between 1555 and 1561 at one end of Red Square, it consists of a series of chapels around a central church, encompassing a blend of oriental and traditional Russian styles. It became known as St Basil's Cathedral following the interment of the body of a venerated local saint, Vasily Blazhenny (Basil the Blessed, 1468-1557), on the site in 1557. The building saw a series of alterations and restorations across the centuries, including those following Napoleon's occupation of Moscow in 1812, completed in 1848. In this view of the cathedral from the south, the arcade of the Trade Rows, designed by Osip Ivanovich Bove to replace the trading area built for Catherine II on design by Quarenghi, can partially be seen in the background on the left.

  • Creator(s)

    James Mack (1827-64) (photographer)

  • 24.2 x 25.1 cm (image)

  • Presented to Queen Victoria by the photographer on behalf of Lord Panmure (later known as Lord Dalhousie) on 11 November 1856.

  • Subject(s)
    • Places
      • Europe
        • Russia
          • Moscow [Russia]
            • Saint Basil's Cathedral [Moscow]
    • Arts, Recreation, Entertainment & Sport
      • Architecture
        • Ecclesiastical & religious architecture
          • Cathedrals
    • Science, Medicine and Technology
      • Agriculture and related techniques
        • Animal husbandry
          • Horses
      • Construction
        • Structural parts of buildings
          • Roofs
            • Domes (architectural)