Odessa’s historic quarter boasts many grandeur buildings erected mostly during the second half of the nineteenth – early twentieth centuries when the city reached the peak of its prosperity.
A lot of buildings are really ornate, some look a bit too ornate, we call them “eclectic” ☺. Look at this house: embellished with atlantes on the first floor, caryatids in the middle floors and lion heads on top, it has a mosaic, different types of columns and balconies.
What catches an eye during even a brief walk along the beautiful broad avenues and cobblestone side streets of the historic quarter are sculptures of lions and atlases, which decorate almost every house.
Beautiful single or double full size sculptures of atlantes as well as half-length figures attached to a downward tapering pedestal typically decorate the first floor of the historic mansions, acting as support to the balconies or terraces above the arch of the façade.
Such sculptures are pretty common and can be seen all over Europe. How about this – two atlantes supporting the Earth?
This is Odessa’s landmark building, which once was a private mansion of a rich family of merchants of German origin.
A very common question is why there are so many atlantes on Odessa’s historic houses? To answer it, we need to go back in history to ancient times. Atlantes originated in Greek Sicily; the earliest surviving atlantes are fallen ones from the Early Classical Greek temple of Zeus in Sicily dating from the 5th or 6th centuries B.C.. Sculptures of atlantes, either single or double full size or half body, became a very popular décor element in the eighteenth century baroque and since that time were used in every architectural style.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many buildings were designed with glorious atlantes, which looked much like Greek ones. What made atlantes extremely fashionable in Russian Empire is their selection as the main décor element for the Hermitage museum building in St Petersburg (finished in 1852). Those of you who’ve been to Hermitage certainly remember these triple full size ten granite sculptures of atlantes, designed by the Bavarian architect Leo von Klenze completed in 1852.
These atlantes created a fashionable trend in architecture in Russian Empire and its capital, St Petersburg, and Odessa being at that time the Southern capital (St Petersburg was the capital of the North) did not want to fall behind (saying the least. Usually, Odessans strove to be the first ones in everything ☺). Hence, atlantes decorated almost every building, designed during the second half of the nineteenth- early twentieth centuries :).
Enjoy our beautiful city and if you are interested in arranging a private tour, ping us at info@Odessawalks.com
Our next blog post will be about sculptures of lions. Stay tuned 🙂