Indeed, the descriptions of their activities read like raw material for Gogol or Dostoevsky. Ivan’s younger brother Arseny even managed to earn a mention, albeit an unfavourable one, in Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection. He did so by building Castle Morozov, a vast structure on a plot close to the Kremlin, in the Portuguese Gothic-Moorish manner. It was modelled on the Pena Palace in Sintra but with certain details adjusted, as Semenova puts it, ‘to take account of the much colder climate’.
A Soviet co-operative examining his pictures in 1930 found only nine passed the test of “worker and peasant subject matter”; the collection was separated, the canvases rolled up, and it was forbidden to name the “Moscow capitalist” who had “caused great harm to the development of Russian and Soviet art”, according to an edict signed by Stalin. It was so effective, although later in the century his pictures were displayed again at the Hermitage and Pushkin museums, that Morozov remained relatively obscure — until brought to life in this beguiling biography.