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KuskovoThis estate – museum is located within the city limits, 12 kilometers (eight miles) to the southeast. The lands of Kuskovo were in the Sheremetyev family since the early 17th century. (Boris Sheremetyev fought with Peter the Great against the Swedes in the Battle of Poltava in 1709). The Sheremetyevs were incredibly wealthy with over three million acres of land holding and 200,000 serfs. When Boris` son Pyotr Borisovich married a Romanov princess in 1743, they decided to built a summer estate at Kuskovo, where as many as 30,000 guests could be entertained in a single day; it was soon nicknamed the Moscow Versailles. The pink and white wooden mansion (1769 – 75) was designed by Karl Blank and the serf – architects Alexei Mironov and Fyodor Argunov. It is faced with white stone and decorated with parquet floors, antique furniture, embroidered tapestries and crystal chandeliers; notice the carved initials PS over the front floor. The mansion also houses an excellent collection of 18th – century Russian Kuskovoart; a portrait of Catherine the Great hangs in the Raspberry Drawing Room and the White Ball Hall is decorated with rich bucolic scenes pained by Sheremetyev serf.

Outside, near the kitchen, stands the old estate church and five small pavilions are situated around the pond and grotto. (Pyotr Sheremetyev loved to stage mock military battles on the lake for his friends). Other garden pavilions include the cross – shaped Hermitage, designed by Karl Blank in 1765; the brick – facade Dutch Cottage (1749); and the Swiss House, built in 1864 by Nikolai Benoit. Beyond the Italian Cottage, which also displays a collection of 18th – century paintings and sculpture, is theKuskovo famous Open – Air Theater, where the celebrated company of Sheremetyev serf – actors performed weekly plays. One of the most popular actresses was Praskovia Zhemchugova – Kovalyova, the daughter of a serf blacksmith. In 1789, when she caught the eye of Nikolai Sheremetyev, son Pyotr, one of Russia’s most romantic love stories developed. Creating a major scandal, Nikolai granted her bedroom and went on to marry the commoner in 1801. To get away from increasing social gossip, they moved to a palace at Ostankino. (Sadly Praskovia died two years later in childbirth). In the neighboring Orangerie a small display tells their love story, and the Ceramics Museum exhibits a fine collection of Russian and European porcelain, faience and glass.

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