The collection of photos of the State Literary Museum of L.N. Tolstoy counts about 30 thousand items. It is the largest collection of photos of L.N. Tolstoy and pictures of persons, places and events related to the life and work of the writer; it includes collections of daguerreotypes, photo albums, photo negatives and films.
The first daguerreotype (an image on a silver plate treated with iodine vapor) portrait of Tolstoy was taken in St. Petersburg in 1849. In 1851 L.N. Тоlstoy was photographed in Moscow with his elder brother Nikolas before their departure to the Caucasus. On the daguerreotype dated 1854 ensign Tolstoy just received promotion to officer's rank.
The first photo of Tolstoy was taken in 1856 by Sergey Lvovich Levitsky. The photos made in 1862 (photographer M.B. Tulinov), 1876 (photographer I. F. Diagovchenko), photo works made by Prince S.S. Abamelek-Lazarev and by “Scherer and Nabgolts Co.” reflect various milestones in the biography of he writer. The only color picture of the writer was taken on May 23, 1908 in Yasnaya Poliana by Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorski, photographer, chemist, explorer and inventor.
The photo collection of Sofia Tolstoy is unique owing to the quantity of photos (over 1000), the content and the time lapse: over 20 years. S. Tolstoy learnt how to take pictures in youth when she lived with her parents in Pokrovskoe- Streshnevo. In 1887 she bought a new camera. By that time the complicated procedure of getting images by way of wet colloid method was simplified with dry method: employment of bromide gelatin plates.
Till 1895 her photo experience was uneven since she was fully occupied with her large family, illnesses of children, troubles related to education of children, etc. It happened so that she did not make a single photo in a year. However from the above mentioned year she begins to take pictures of Tolstoy systematically.
Sofia Tolstoy took pictures of Tolstoy with eminent figures of the Russian culture and science (Stasov, Ginzburg, Chekhov, Gorki, Repin and many others. She started an interesting part of the collection “Tolstoy and sports”: she took pictures of Tolstoy riding, playing tennis and gorodki; she was the author of the only photo of Tolstoy skating. S. Tolstoy took pictures of her husband in time of work unnoticeably. The last photo of the two in 1910 which coincides with anniversary of their marriage reflects their spiritual discord.
The collection of the photos of L.N. Tolstoy taken by his friend Vladimir Grigorievich Chertkov is primarily an attempt to expess by means of photography singularity and complexity of the image of Tolstoy.
The representative of an old noble family, unusually handsome in his youth; Chertkov cut the brilliant carrier of an officer of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment, despite the hopes of his noble parents, to devote himself to servicing the people and to realize the moral ideals that meet the requirements of the Gospel.
Chertkov made his first photographs of the writer in the spring of 1905 when, thanks to the efforts of mother he was able to briefly visit Russia, being exiled for his appeals in defense of the Dukhobors. From 1908 he began taking pictures of Tolstoy more often. To help he invited from England a professional photographer Thomas Tupsel, a man of middle age, silent and calm, very devoted to the cause. T. Tupsel developed and printed the pictures.
With instant camera Chertkov shot “close up” series of the portraits of the writer made when Tolstoy was busy with something: assorting mail, talking to somebody. Tolstoy often forgot of the presence of Chertkov, being fascinated with work or left alone with his thoughts. Pictures convey Tolstoy's face in motion, in an infinite variety of its expressions. His eyes were the most remarkable feature in his face. Small, deeply locked up under the overhanging bushy eyebrows, they had extraordinary powers.
Chertkov believed it was important to capture and preserve for posterity the image of Tolstoy. However Tolstoy perceived photography as fun, “landlord foolishness” and an obstacle to serious work.
The most important in the photo collection of Chertkov is a spiritual aspect of Tolstoy. Hence his predilection for close up portraits, the themes like “Tolstoy and nature”, “Tolstoy and people” through which the personality of the writer was disclosed.
It is the largest collection of items related to the heritage of Russia's greatest writer and philosopher. It is also a world famous It is also the world's largest research, cultural and educational center for studies and promotion of the creative legacy of Tolstoy.
The collection consists of about 500000 items related to the life and work of Leo Tolstoy. It has been the basis for research work of specialists on Tolstoy from Russia and other countries for many decades. The major part of it is a unique collection of manuscripts of the writer and persons close to him; it also includes the collections of art, sculpture, graphics, photos and films (several thousand negatives depicting the writer); a library of rare books and publications with almost all editions of Tolstoy's works undertaken during his life.
The Мuseum was established after death of the writer by the family, friends and loved ones of the writer, many of them being prominent figures of the Russian culture. Among them are his wife Sofia and Tolstoy's children, Russian writers: V. Briusov, I. Bunin, M. Gorki, V. Veresaev; artists: I. Repin, L. Pasternak, V. Меshkov, sculptor S. Меrkurov, representatives of the theatrical community: К. Stanislavski, V. Nemirovich-Danchenko, V. Каchаlov, А. Yablochkina, followers of Tolstoy: V. Chertkov, P. Buriukov, I. Gorbunov-Posadov, N. Gusev, V. Bulgakov. The museum of L.N. Tolstoy, then settled down at 18 Povarskaia street, received first visitors on December 28, 1911. 1920 was the year of significant changes: it changed its status from public to a state one to be denominated further on as the State Literary Museum. The museum was offered new premises in the house of the Lopukhin family at 11 Prechistenka street.
The museum occupies the ancient house which is a unique example of building in Moscow after the Patriotic War of 1812. The house was designed by architect А.G. Grigoriev (1782–1868), who was rebuilding Moscow after the great fire of 1812, alongwith Osip Bove, the Gilardi family, the Shestakov brothers and other famous architects. The Lopukhin house is distinguished by monumentality and refined simplicity of the external decoration. In the house are five state rooms: reception, hall-dining room, large living room and front bedroom. The architectural diversity of the ceremonial room complements the colorful ceiling paintings, made by Italian craftsmen.
In the late 18th - early 19th century the manor belonged to the Guards Lieutenant Basil Avramovic Lopukhin, then to his son Abraham Vasilyevich. Later the house was owned by Katherine Stanitsky, Councilor of the Court. It is not known exactly whether Tolstoy visited the house, though he was a distant relative of the Lopukhin: his cousin's aunt Maria Ivanovna Lopukhin, was the elder sister of Count Tolstoy, Fyodor Ivanovich, nicknamed "American". The Lopukhin house survived until today without significant changes and is now carefully preserved by the museum.