On February 8, 1837, in St. Petersburg, Georges d’Anthès fought a duel with Alexander Pushkin, whom he shot in the stomach. Pushkin died two days later on his sofa. So … what happened to the sofa? That is the question I address today, one hundred and seventy-three years and five days after Pushkin’s death.
Until last week, the sofa’s fate was shrouded in mystery. A sofa has been on display in the study of St. Petersburg’s Pushkin Apartment Museum, since its donation by the Hermitage in 1937. (The sofa had been placed in the Hermitage some years earlier by a descendant of a noble family which may or may not have received it from Pushkin’s daughter-in-law.) A certain dark stain on the upholstery was identified to visitors as the blood of the dying poet. Nonetheless, some museum workers entertained private doubts: what if the stain represented, rather, the poet’s coffee? Or somebody else’s coffee?