Georgia restores two iconic Pirosmani paintings

Pirosmani's portraits of Georgia's medieval poet Shota Rustaveli (L) and Queen Tamar. Photo from Gela Bedianashvili/Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia press office., 28 Sep 2016 - 15:19, Tbilisi,Georgia

Two paintings by one of Georgia's most celebrated late painters Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918) are undergoing extensive restoration before being returned to public viewing at a special Pirosmani museum.

Pirosmani’s portraits of Georgia's medieval Queen Tamar and poet Shota Rustaveli are the focus of the Pirosmani Restoration Project, announced yesterday by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.

The decision to restore the two works came from the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, and the project was supported by the Ministry of Culture and financed by TBC Bank.

A 1964 portrait of Pirosmani by late Georgian painter Lado Gudiashvili. Photo from

Stage one of the project envisages restoring the two Pirosmani works, while other paintings will also be restored at a later date.

The portraits are preserved at the Niko Pirosmani Museum in eastern Georgia’s Mirzaani Village. The portraits themselves, and the museum venue, suffered years of neglect and were in need of repair.

The Niko Pirosmanashvili Museum in Tbilisi – named after the painter and also located on Pirosmani St - will have the two unrestored portraits on display for several hours today.

Several Pirosmani works were donated to Georgian museums after being purchased by former PM and tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili. Photo from the Georgian National Museum’s press office.

After today’s display, the two portraits will be sent to the Georgian National Museum (GNM), the umbrella organisation bringing together several museum venues across the country.

At GNM the restoration of the two pieces will be carried out by experts Nana Managadze and Evelina Karseli from Tbilisi's Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts.

The two specialists said the restoration process would require a complex approach due to effects of previous restoration works on the portraits. The latest restoration efforts was likely to take about three months.

Pirosmani's 1907 painting 'Arsenal Hill at Night', purchased by Ivanishvili at the 2015 Christie’s Auction in London and donated to the GNM. Photo from Sotheby's.

After being restored, the two Pirosmani paintings will be exhibited alongside the full Pirosmani collection from Mirzaani museum at TBC Gallery in Tbilisi’s Marjanishvili district.

Since 1948, the portraits had been part of the private collection of Georgian philologist Ioseb Megrelidze and his spouse and theatre critic Nino Shvangiradze.

The family handed the two works to the Museum of People's Friendship in Kakheti in 1989 before they became part of the Mirzaani Museum of Pirosmani collection.

The painting 'Roe Deer Drinking from a Stream' was granted to the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery in a formal ceremony yesterday. Photo from Gela Bedianashvili/Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia press office.

Over the past 12 months GNM added several of Pirosmani's most iconic works to their public collections.

Earlier this year the painting Roe Deer Drinking from a Stream was purchased at Sotheby's Auction in London, theUnited Kingdom by Georgia’s former Prime Minister and tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, who then donated the piece back to the country for the public to enjoy.

First discovered in 1949 but never publicly exhibited, the work was granted to the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery in Tbilisi at a formal ceremony on Wednesday.

Last year Ivanishvili purchased the Pirosmani’s 1907 work Arsenal Hill at Night at Christie’s Auction in London, then also donated the piece to the GNM.

Born in the Kakheti region village Mirzaani in 1862, Niko Pirosmanashvili (known to the public as Niko Pirosmani) took an early interest in painting and taught himself as he never received formal art training.

The 1914 painting 'Easter Lamb' by Niko Pirosmani.

He later moved to Tbilisi and made a living painting shop plaques, portraits and landscapes for bar owners however he never managed to escape poverty during his life in Georgia's capital.

Known as one of the foremost self-taught Georgian painters, Pirosmani was discovered by prominent Georgian artists Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze and Kirill Zdanevich. Despite this recognition, he struggled to reach a wider audience and faced limited work opportunities.

Information on Pirosmani's life and artistic legacy were mostly obtained by biographers and historians and he only began to be recognised for his contribution to art after his death in 1918.