Valiko Mizandari – Muse and Beloved Teacher of Gabriadze

valiko mizandari


valiko mizandari

Author: Nanuli Tskhvediani

“When I hear the name Valiko Mizandari, I think of a winter evening, of a tin stove, of the crackling firewood; the head of Michelangelo’s ‘David,’ portraits of Kutaisi locals — some in clay, some in stone, plaster, and some unfinished — and the endless stream of sweet stories, where the simple people of our city magically intertwine with the bohemians of Montmartre in Paris, the adventures of Alexander the Great, the pranks of the trickster Khariton (may he rest in peace!) The paintings, Rodin’s smile, hunting adventures in Kopitnari, human proportions — all accompanied by the seductive pink wine of Imereti, slowly pouring into my memories, causing a sweet pain to my heart with their uniqueness and the inevitability of dead moments…”

Who could be the author of these phrases, if not Rezo Gabriadze? Yes, of course, it is Rezo Gabriadze: the great writer, playwright, director, and artist! And finally, as he adds here, he is “almost a sculptor, a humble student” of dear Valiko Mizandari.

The apprenticeship with this master lasted many years.

Valerian (Valiko) Mizandari – a People’s Artist of Georgia, a chosen student of Jakob Nikoladze, a friend and one of the founders of professional sculpture following in his footsteps, the founder of the Kutaisi Artists’ Organization and its leader for nearly two decades, organizer and creator of the art fund and gallery of fine arts in Kutaisi, a native of Kutaisi, an artist — a wonderful teacher of many generations of sculptors, a colorful person known for his rare humor and hunting adventures — was Rezo Gabriadze’s teacher, elder friend, muse, and inspiration for many immortal passages in his works (but this is a separate topic for conversation).

Valiko Mizandari was such an interesting, independent artist and person that he captivated not only Rezo Gabriadze but also renowned sculptors Elgudja Amashukeli, Merab Berdzenishvili, Tengiz Gviniashvili, Gogilo Nikoladze, People’s Artist Ucha Japaridze, poet Kolau Nadiradze, writers David Kvitsaridze, David Khurodze, Goneri Cheishvili, art critics, journalists, people of other professions. His famous humor, hunting adventures, episodes of meetings with prominent people, and news from the old city of Kutaisi were so substantial and attractive that the public was always delighted with the books created by Valiko Mizandari and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.

I was one of the journalists who often met with Valiko Mizandari. In one of my interviews, published in the newspaper “Kutaisi” on January 5, 1982, on the occasion of the sculptor’s 70th birthday, some information has been preserved, and perhaps it is worth bringing it to the attention of a new generation of readers (published in abridged form).


Respondent: Valerian Mizandari.

Journalist: Nanuli Tskhvediani.

… Whom did he not meet in his life?! The fact is that he was the most beloved student of Jakob Nikoladze and spent many unforgettable hours in the workshop of the great Georgian sculptor, making many wonderful acquaintances.

“Oh, I am very happy about that!” — he began leisurely when we arrived at his home to celebrate his seventieth birthday — “Who didn’t come to the workshop! There I met the great Ivane Javakhishvili. At that time, he was already deaf and listened to us through a hearing tube… The famous geographer Alexandre Javakhishvili — a short man with thin gray mustaches… Lado Gudiashvili… The French academic artist Lanceray… There I also met Titian Tabidze, my dear. He was a plump, slightly thick-lipped, handsome young man who always carried a carnation in his suit pocket.

I remember once we visited the workshop. I stood near the chair where he was sitting. I stared for a long time at the carnation on his coat, Titian’s carnation, and finally, unable to resist, I asked: ‘How do you always keep live flowers, don’t they wither?’

He laughed — ‘ They are artificial.’

Among the guests of Jakob Nikoladze’s workshop, I especially remember Mikheil Javakhishvili. He was very thin, wore high boots, and had a small beard. He looked like a true intellectual. At that time, his work ‘Arsena Marabdeli’ had just been published and was being passed from hand to hand in Tbilisi. How much interesting stuff Mikheil told us! I also remember the poet Nikolo Mitsishvili very well. He wore narrow trousers, and narrow-toed shoes corresponding to the new fashion of the time, and held a large cane in his hand. He himself was a short man, thin. It was a very interesting community that gathered. They discussed issues of literature and art… These were people of high spirits!.. High in all respects!..

-I think you met David Kakabadze back then?

-Yes, back then. By the way, I have a good memory related to him from a later period.

… I saw David early in the morning standing near a bookstore. He was holding his usual ‘study folder’ and looking sadly into the window. It was the period when the Marjanishvili Theatre came to Kutaisi.

-“David Nestorovich, what brought you here so early in the morning? — I asked, surprised.

-“I came. Marjanishvili invited me to attend the reading of ‘Samanshvili’s Stepmother.’ I need to make sketches and decorations for the play. But what should I do, he didn’t meet me at the theatre, and I have no accommodation here — there was no place in the hotel.”

I offered him to stay with me, I had a good apartment, I would give him a room, and I would create all the conditions for him.

My mother and father were still alive then. They were happy to have a guest. Besides, what a guest he was! He was very shy, modest, always with a smile on his face, and always saying — ‘How I am bothering you.’

We arranged a room, a table, a lamp…

‘Samanshvili’s Stepmother’ – he read it all night, making sketches in a student album on large pages, and in the morning showed us. Marjanishvili did not come to the theatre the next day or the following days. David worked and worked…

One day I, as usual, inquired at the theatre, and they told me that Marjanishvili had arrived.

David gathered his sketches and left.

In the evening, after he left, I saw a piece of paper with a drawing that had fallen and was lying on the floor. I ran to find my guest. I said that he had dropped it.

  • “I know, — he smiled, — when I didn’t see the sketch here in the folder, I drew it anew, and you can keep that one.

            Here it is, framed, hanging on the wall…

Mr. Valiko points to the northern wall of the room. In the frame is a light pencil sketch of a woman with an umbrella, dressed in a “voluminous” dress.

  • “In my opinion, it looks more like Karozhna, — the host said and added, — in the corner of the picture is also the artist’s signature if you look closely. By the way, Marjanishvili completed ‘Samanshvili’s Stepmother’ in Tbilisi, did not come here.”
  • “Did you often meet with Galaktion? “— we return to the interrupted topic.

Of course. I will tell you about another interesting story: once Galaktion came to Jakob Nikoladze’s workshop — clean-shaven, dressed to the nines, adorned with a “bow,” even a bit tipsy… At that time, Jakob was sculpting a portrait of the famous mathematician Andria Razmadze, so Razmadze’s sister often visited the workshop. She was a peculiar woman. She had one persistent habit: if she shook someone’s hand, she would introduce herself as: ‘Professor Razmadze’s sister!’

So when Galaktion arrived, Jakob introduced the poet to the lady. She slightly bowed… without changing her habit, extended her hand and added: ‘Professor Razmadze’s sister!’

Galaktion smiled and introduced himself: ‘Philip Makhardze’s neighbor! After that, Andria’s sister no longer lingered in the workshop.”

  • “It turns out you also knew Kote Marjanishvili…”
  • “Yes. By the way, Marjanishvili visited Jakob’s workshop twice; Jakob wanted to sculpt his portrait, but Kote didn’t stay: ‘Next time, next time’…Then he never came again.

“I saw his performances in Kutaisi. Attending them was indeed a great celebration. At that time, what an audience we had, and what actors performed!

The greats were there: Ushangi, Veriko, Shalva Gambashidze, Sergo Zakariadze!.. What a talent Vaso Godziashvili was, such immense talent!

Once I worked in the Kutaisi theatre as an assistant to Petre Otskheli.

-” It was then that I met Marjanishvili… This period of my life holds many memories for me…”

– “Mr. Valiko, since you are a native of Kutaisi, could you say a few words about our famous “boulevard”? Please recall the districts of old Kutaisi…”

– “Oh, what was our boulevard like back then! There stood a semi-circular covered building. Inside, a brass band played. People danced. There were walks and sweet conversations, there also strolled girls, potential brides, ‘accidentally’ meeting suitors.

I also remember that on the edge of the boulevard stood a beautiful carriage. A plush pony was harnessed to it. If parents paid a coin, a group of children would sit in the back, one or two — in the front. This little pony, plodding slowly, would circle the entire garden.

  • “Sometimes I wonder and see: television has taken viewers from cinemas and theatres, children from the yard, pedestrians from the streets. Children no longer play… and in our time, there were so many interesting toys: “Lakhte with a rope,” “Tkhilobana,” “Rik-Tafela,” “Virobana,” “Sails,” and I don’t know what other games…
  • “I remember the districts of old Kutaisi, with old tailors, shoemakers, water carriers, porters… I remember the old street: on one side stood the tailors’ shops, and every day before them hissed the hot coal irons, steaming. Shoemakers displayed newly made traditional leather shoes in the sun in front of their huts. Well, they had good boys as apprentices, but there were also naughty ones: once they caught a rat in a trap, doused it with kerosene, and set it on fire, then opened the manholes… The burning rat ran towards the Chain Bridge. There, on the bank of the Rioni, stood a wooden stable where peasants from the villages stayed overnight, and the horses remained there as well. The rat ran into this stable. The hay caught fire, and the stable was completely engulfed in flames. For a long time, the fire burned in that place. Then they planted trees. Have you noticed the small park beyond the bridge? That is where the stable stood.
  • “The city is transforming before our eyes…”
  • “This cannot be compared to today’s conditions. There stood a swamp in the grass, mosquitoes flew like clouds. Then they planted eucalyptus trees to drain the swamp. In some yards, eucalyptus trees planted at that time still remain. What swamps were there, what moisture! Malaria raged. In every fifth or sixth house lived a tuberculosis patient. What a comparison! — Asphalt and cleanliness brought well-being.

Mr. Valerian speaks sweetly. Interesting, colorful stories from hunting adventures (he is an old hunter!), from his life, or from someone else’s life do not end.

He impressively tells us about his old friends, now that they are no longer alive, and about those who give Kutaisi its special color and charm… He tells us about unforgettable meetings with Vano Sarajishvili, Zakaria and Ivane Paliashvili, Terenti Graneli…

You listen to these stories when he tells them with his good humor, and you feel that everything around you takes on a special color, and becomes more precious. You think that every hour, every minute should be deeply imprinted in your memory so that later, years later, you can also beautifully convey that pain or joy, love or sadness reflected in the spiritual mirror of your generation, be proud of those dear people who surround you now, and sometimes you don’t even realize how lucky you are to live next to them!

(From Nanuli Tskhvediani’s book “Do You Remember, Kutaisi?”)


Well, after so many years, of reading this old newspaper material, I feel what a joy it was just to meet Valiko Mizandari. He was a tireless talker, a unique respondent whose conversations and oral stories could not be recorded and preserved in detail due to the technical limitations of the time.

Here is what Rezo Gabriadze said in a letter to his teacher, published in the newspaper “Kutaisi” on December 30, 1981:

“Let art connoisseurs discuss his work, but I will say one thing: for me, Valerian Mizandari was, is, and remains a completely unique Kutaisi phenomenon in art, whose image can only be created by a great writer.”

This writer is Rezo Gabriadze himself. He created the theme and story of Valiko Mizandari in his immortal works.