SEPTEMBER 29, 1958
LENINGRAD, U.S.S.R.—I had an orgy of museum sightseeing on one day last week—including a whole morning just going through the Italian rooms at the Hermitage. I looked long again at the two small Leonardo da Vinci Madonnas, one of which is said perhaps to be a copy. It was only after being told that, however, that I could imagine I could see and feel a difference between the two.
I also spent a long time again with one magnificent Georgioni, and there is a most interesting piece of sculpture by Michelangelo. This latter I did not see when I was here last year. It is a figure of a young man sitting bent over examining one foot. It is unfinished, and the story is that Michelangelo's pupils gave him a cube of marble and asked him what he would make of it. This piece of work is the result.
There is another piece of marble sculpture, done from a drawing by Raphael, of a dead boy being carried ashore by a dolphin. The story about this is that the dolphin loved the boy and they were playing in the water when the boy drowned. The dolphin swam ashore with him and then lay down on the beach beside him and died.
In the afternoon we went to the Russian Museum, and impressive building with lovely gardens leading up the main entrance. There we looked at some early Russian primitives, which were rather interesting and in some cases show a Chinese influence. These went back to the late 12th and 13th Centuries and the early 14th Century. The earliest paintings have an all-gold background, but the later ones showed little landscapes and other decoration behind the main figures.
From this museum we visited an exhibition of a Russian artist named Repin, and this was most beautiful. This man could do anything with a brush.
We ended our afternoon with a call on the Russian woman, Mme. Konitzkaya, who wrote a letter to The New York Times over a year ago, in which letter she asked American women to help her prevent war. She wrote to me again this year, so I thought I'd go to see her.
Mme. Konitzkaya has five children, and two years ago the family moved into a new apartment house. The building has an elevator, but it does not work. Their apartment consists of three rooms—a combination living room-dining room that has a big couch which becomes a double bed. It is the father's and mother's room, and it also has an extra bed for the youngest child and a desk. Then there is a bedroom with a big couch that also makes up into a bed. The third room is the kitchen, which is rather nice but which certainly is not equppped with the things that make the housewife's life easy according to American standards. There is central heating and light and sun (when there is any) in every room.
Mme. Konitzkaya asked me about our attitude on China, but it was difficult for me to answer, for our background of information is so totally different. After you read the newspapers here you become somewhat depressed, for you wonder how we can ever understand each other.
A week ago Sunday we drove out to the country to see some children's convelescent homes. These particular ones cared for rheumatic fever cases. The patients stay for about three months, are discharged, and then may come back again if they are not fully cured.
Like many another place where we visited institutions for children, the neatness and orderliness are surprising, as is the remarkable discipline. Rarely do you see any of the youngsters squabbling. They play quiet games and read aloud to one another, and many of the girls do embroidery. A little group sitting outside was listening to a youngster play the accordion and all were singing.
On our return to our hotel we spent another hour at the Hermitage to see the moderns—Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Gaugin and many others, which was a wonderful collection.