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Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Saint Petersburg Palaces: History, Architecture, Owners
Topic: Books

includes 23 Imperial Palaces * 12 Grand Ducal Palaces * and 21 Palaces and Mansions of the Nobility
Large hard cover * English text * 240 pages * 550 photographs 
This new book presents the largest collection of Russian palaces ever to be published in English. This richly illustrated volume—more than 500 illustrations—mostly in colour—features 23 Imperial palaces, 12 Grand Ducal palaces, and 21 palaces and mansions of the nobility in St. Petersburg.
St Petersburg Palaces is a showcase of some the architectural masterpieces of the former capital of the Russian empire. These include the palaces and mansions created by the most eminent architects of the time, including works by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Savva Chevakinsky, Antonio Rinaldi, Ivan Starov, Giacomo Quarenghi, Harald Bosse, Andrei Stackenschneider, Auguste de Montferrand, Hippolyto Monighetti, Adam Menelaws, Andrei Voronikhin, Luigi Rusca, Maximilian Messmacher, Alexander von Gogen and other celebrated masters.
This stunning pictorial is divided into three sections: Imperial Palaces, Grand Ducal Palaces, and Palaces and Mansions of the Nobility. The accompanying text outlines the history, architecture and owners of each palace and mansion, complimented with photographs of the historic interiors, plus contemporary views. Many of the palaces and mansions featured in this volume are little known to Western readers, therefore making this book a must for collectors!


© Royal Russia. 1 July, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:09 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 July 2015 6:30 AM EDT
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Topic: Royal Russia


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 July 2015 8:35 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Exhibition: Grandeur of the Russian Empire
Topic: Exhibitions

The exhibition in the Radishchev State Art Museum is dedicated to the unique period of the Russian history which took almost 200 years. More than 170 masterpieces of Russian, West European and Eastern work of the XVIIIth – XIXth centuries are demonstrated there.

The represented monuments are of special historical and memorial significance apart from their high artistic value. Most of the exhibits come from the Imperial Ryust-Kamera, Court Office, Emperor’s chambers, Services store room of the Winter Palace, Kremlin cathedrals and the main collection of the Armoury Chamber.

The XVIIIth century marked the determinate and effective reforms of the army and weaponry as well as formation of the order system and building of the new country capital undertaken by Peter the Great. All these events are connected with the name of the first Russian Emperor.

The exposition starts with items reminding of reforms in the military sphere and weaponry, as well as organization of new factories in Sestroretsk and Olonets instead of closed armory workshop of the Kremlin. There is a dirk of Peter I from the Preobrazhenskiy Palace, officer insignia, sword and mortar which appeared in the Russian army in the early XVIIIth century.

Just like in the XVIth – XVIIth centuries, hunting stayed one of the most popular entertainments at the court. There are impressive specimen of Russian and West European weapons exhibited, such as gorgeously decorated saddle pistols made in Tula, rifle from Petersburg, Bohemian carbine by constructor Leopold Becher and pistols by Turin, the court armoury master of Louis XIV of France.

The construction of the new capital with its palaces and celebrations required producing of new household utensils, furniture and interior decorations. The exhibited tapestry portrait of Peter the Great was executed at that manufactory open in the newly built capital in 1717 after the decree of Peter I. Large, highly artistic pieces made of precious materials, such as the silver dish executed by the Moscow master Alexey Ratkov and presented to Catherine II by the citizens of Smolensk, were also used for interior decoration.

Special significance was given to such representative silver items as silver dinner sets which appeared in the XVIIIth century to serve as household utensils and were at the same time an evidence of the high status of the owner,. The exhibited Paris service is executed by Paris and Saint Petersburg silversmiths.

A group of precious jewelry pieces is demonstrated to relate the atmosphere of the court entertainments, amusements and balls of the gallant XVIIIth century. The exhibition represents toilet bags and watch on ribbon as well as snuffboxes , which were used not only for keeping snuff tobacco, becoming widespread in the XVIIIth century Russia inside, but also for nonverbal communications between ladies and cavaliers.

New administrative and territorial division of the country, which began in 1708 with the creation of provinces by Peter the Great, was continued by his successors. Radical reform in this area was undertaken by Catherine II. Representative silver tableware was executed by her order for delivery to provinces. The exhibition presents items from the Mitavskiy service by Saint Petersburg master N. Lund and the Kazan service by Parisian silversmith R.-J. Auguste.

A group of memorial silver pieces related to the development of Siberia in the XVIIIth century occupies the special place at the exposition. The exhibition includes a silver cup, presented to the Irkutsk voevode Larion Sinyavin by Peter I and a group of utensils made for the family of the Governor of Siberia D. I. Chicherin by masters from Tobolsk, a large center of silversmithery in the XVIIIth century Russia.

The beginning of the XIXth is inseparably linked with the name of Alexander I. It’s during his reign that the wars with Napoleon, primarily, the Patriotic war of 1812, have occurred. The exhibition presents his personal items – porcelain utensils made at the Imperial manufactories in Sèvres and Dagoty, France, presented to him by Napoleon on the occasion of the conclusion of the Tilsit peace treaty; combatant weapons used during the war of 1812; the memorial plaque with the text of the Manifesto of the Holy Alliance. Some skillfully executed weapons represented at the exhibition are produced at the factories in Izhevsk and Zlatoust, opened during the reign of Alexander I.

Moscow, destroyed by the enemy invadors, demanded restoration. The process of building begun during the reign of Alexander I continued under Nicholas I. Constuction of the Grand Kremlin Palace, the part of which the new building of the Armoury Chamber is, had the special importance. This section of the exhibition is represented by keys to the Spasskie (Saviour) and Borovitskiye gates of the Kremlin with the monogram of Nicholas I, as well as a new porcelain set made at the Imperial porcelain factory for the new Palace and tapestry produced at the Petersburg Imperial Tapestry Manufactory to serve as decoration for one of the rooms.

There is also a group of exhibits illustrating the formation of the Russian award system. Apart from the Russian orders and insignia, they include items connected to the award system, such as a granted bucket and sabre and award weapons of the XIXth century.

The concluding section of the exhibition is dedicated to the coronations of the Russian monarchs. It presents unique items reflecting the traditions respected during these celebrations which usually lasted for several days.

The exhibition: Grandeur of the Russian Empire runs from 24th June 24th - 13th September, 2015 in the Radishchev State Art Museum, Saratov, Russia. 

© Moscow Kremlin State Museums. 24 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:55 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 June 2015 6:05 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Russian Lawmaker Wants Romanovs to Return to Russia
Topic: Russian Imperial House

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna 
Head of the Russian Imperial House and de jure Empress of All the Russias
The decision to invite back the Russian royals is one of the most significant events of the post-Soviet period. This article was originally published in the June 23rd, 2015 edition of Russia Today, and edited for clarification by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

A regional lawmaker has addressed the heirs of the Russian Imperial House and descendants of the Romanov dynasty with a request to return to Russia promising them a special legal status and one of historic palaces in Crimea or St. Petersburg.

The move proposed by Vladimir Petrov, a law maker from President Vladimir Putin's party, and member of the legislative assembly of the Leningrad Region, has prompted speculation that it has the Russian leaders' direct approval. Petrov wrote letters to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Dimitri Romanovich asking them to become symbols of national culture and maintaining traditions, similar to that of the European nations that retained their monarchies to this day.

“For the whole length of its reign the Romanov imperial dynasty remained a foundation of the Russian statehood. At present Russia is undergoing a complicated process of regaining its glory and worldwide influence. I am sure that in this historical moment the Romanovs would not stay away from all processes that are taking place in Russia,” Petrov writes in his letter.

The politician suggested that this move would help to smooth political controversies within Russia and help to restore the “spiritual power” of the nation.

Petrov added that he and his colleagues from the Leningrad regional legislature would very soon develop and draft a bill “On the special status of representatives of the Tsars’ family” that would give some guarantees to the returning Romanovs. He also said that the royals could use one of the palaces that belonged to their ancestors before the revolution and that now remain vacant or are misused.

“To this day a lot of wonderful Tsar’s palaces near St. Petersburg are either empty or used not according to their destination. I think if one of these palaces is used as an official residence of the Romanov family it would only be for everyone’s benefit,” the lawmaker said in comments to Izvestia daily. He noted that another option was to settle the royals in the Livadia Palaces in Crimea.

The head of the Chancellery of the Russian Imperial House, Aleksandr Zakatov, told Izvestia that some representatives of the dynasty were ready to move to Russia. However, he noted that Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna held a high post of the head of the imperial house and therefore her return should be decent and solemn.

“She has no claims for property or political privileges and powers, she only wants the imperial house to become a historical institution and part of the national legacy, similar to royal houses of many other countries. And this recognition must be manifested in a legal act,” Zakatov said.

Currently there are two major branches of the Romanov dynasty – one is headed by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House and the other by Dimitri Romanovich, Head of the Romanov Family Association. Their representatives often visit Russia and take part in various events, but so far none of them have made any political claims.

An opinion poll conducted in 2013 in connection with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov royal house showed that 28 percent of Russian citizens would agree to the rule of Tsars, but only 6 percent said that this modern monarch must be from the Romanov dynasty. About 13 percent hold that a contemporary Russian politician could become a new Tsar and suggested a nationwide referendum to decide on the candidate.

The majority of the people - 67 percent - said that Russia should leave monarchy in the past and remain a democracy.

© Russia Today. 23 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:23 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 June 2015 2:00 PM EDT
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Monday, 22 June 2015
Exhibition: Russia and Denmark 1700-1900
Topic: Exhibitions



Click on the START button above to watch a short video of the Russia and Denmark 1700-1900 exhibition (in Russian)
Commemorating 300 years since Peter the Great’s visit to Denmark in 1716, this joint exhibition of Tsarskoye Selo and the Museum of National History Frederiksborg Castle (Hillerød, Denmark) is focused on some remarkable moments in Danish-Russian relations from 1700 to the early 1900s.

The idea of this project was conceived at the opening of a joint exhibition titled ‘Denmark and the Russian Empire 1600–1900” at the Frederiksborg Castle in 2013, attended by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and by Danish and Russian officials.

The core of the exhibition ‘Russia and Denmark 1700–1900’ is made up of art and historical objects from the Museum of National History Frederiksborg Castle and completed with items from the collections of Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and the State Hermitage Museum.

Our visitors will see portraits and memorial items of Russian and Danish monarchs. Also noteworthy is the famous Flora Danica porcelain depicting Danish flora. It was in production at the 1775-founded Royal Porcelain Manufactory from the late eighteenth century until 1802. Pictures of plants were accurately copied from their colour engravings in Flora Danica, a comprehensive atlas of botany. Legend has it that the tableware was meant as a gift for Catherine II to commemorate peace and ‘eternal alliance’ between Denmark and Russia. However, Flora Danica remained in the country and was split between several collections, the one of Frederiksborg Castle being on display in Russia for the first time now.

Among other stories, the exhibition tells about Tsar Peter’s visit to Copenhagen in 1716, the role played by Catherine II in resolving the Gottorp question and the situation of the imprisoned siblings of the murdered Emperor Ivan VI, and the life of Princess Dagmar of Denmark who came to Russia at the age of 19 to marry the heir to the throne and then had to return back home after the 1917 revolution.

The exhibition: Russia and Denmark 1700–1900 runs from 21 June to 20 September 2015 in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. 
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 22 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:48 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 11:00 AM EDT
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Nicholas II Snuff Box Sells for $665,000 at Auction
Topic: Auctions


Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the June 22nd, 2015 edition of the Arizona Daily Star. The author Danielle Arnet owns the copyright of the work presented below.

What: A jeweled, enameled, two-tone gold snuff box estimated at $120,000 to 180,000 sold for $665,000 in a Russian Works of Art sale recently at Christie’s New York.

Made by the Imperial court jeweler, the 3¼-inch-wide rectangular box has a blue enameled top with yellow gold flowers, pink gold rosettes and cabochon emeralds at the corners. The center is pink enamel with a diamond border and a diamond-set Imperial double-headed eagle.

More: Intended as a presentation piece, the box has two types of enamel work. Guilloche enamel features a translucent color applied over a patterned engine cut ground. A red enamel border at the edges is champleve, a technique where enamel is set into raised edges.

Smart collectors know: Imperial enamel and Fabergé objects were produced by workmasters who had artisans and apprentices. The workmaster involved is critical. The mark here is Carl Blank, St. Petersburg, 1899 along with K.Hahn.

Hot tip: Because the French engraving on the box says it was presented by Emperor Nicholas II to the Bulgarian minister at a conference, it can be linked to the giver, the recipient and an event. All important.

Bottom line: Work of such beauty and quality no longer exists. Add historical importance and the piece is priceless.
For more information on this item, please refer to the following article and review the 274-page auction catalogue:

Christie's Sale of Russian Works of Art Features Collections With Imperial Provenance

© Danielle Arnet / Arizona Daily Star. 22 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:21 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 June 2015 6:25 AM EDT
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Sunday, 21 June 2015
Faberge Exhibition Brings Romanov Luster to Oklahoma City
Topic: Faberge


Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the June 21st, 2015 edition of NewsOK. The author Michaela Marx Wheatley owns the copyright of the work presented below.

Between 1885 and 1916, Peter Karl Fabergé created fifty lavish eggs as Easter presents for Russia's last two emperors. These supreme examples of jewelers’ art have become symbols of the rise and fall of the Romanov Empire. Oklahomans now have a chance to take a close look at these rare works.

Four Imperial Eggs and nearly 230 other treasures crafted by the House of Fabergé are on view in the special exhibition “Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through Sept. 27.

“Visitors will experience the wonder of these unique objects, but also have a chance to discover the stories of the people who made them possible, from the Romanov family to Karl Fabergé to the craftsmen themselves,” said Tracy Truels, OKCMOA education curator.

Audio guides designed for children and adults and a hands-on Design Studio, where visitors can create their own Imperial eggs, are available daily. A Gallery Talk Series is scheduled at 1 p.m. on select Sundays throughout the exhibition. Museum staff will discuss a Fabergé topic while touring through the gallery. Each experience is free with paid admission to the Museum.

Introduced to the works of Fabergé at an exhibition in Moscow, Tsar Alexander III appointed Fabergé jeweler and goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court. Fabergé went on to create hundreds of exquisite objects, including the legendary series of eggs.

 “Hundreds of unique objects, including the famed Imperial Easter Eggs, were commissioned by the Romanovs until the Russian Revolution in 1917. The intertwining relationship between Fabergé and the last Russian dynasty has been a real point of fascination for people over the last century,” Fabergé  curatorial assistant Catherine Shotick said.

Alexander III presented an egg each year to the Empress Maria. The gifting tradition was continued by his son, Nicholas II.

“Peter Karl Fabergé worked very closely with the Imperial family, producing work that would become treasured parts of the Romanovs lives,” added Michael Anderson, special exhibition curator. “Naturally, one sees this in the Easter eggs.”

Each egg on display at OKCMOA tells a story; each one meant something to the Romanovs.

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg celebrated Nicholas’ son Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. The boy nearly perished that year. He had been so close to death the court had already written his death notice. Alexei survived, and Fabergé designed a special tribute. It is said that it was Empress Alexandra's most cherished egg.

The Pelican Egg, the first Oklahoma audiences see when entering the exhibition, dazzles in its detail. It’s made of engraved gold, topped by a delicate pelican feeding her young. This egg commemorated the Dowager Empress’ patronage of various charitable institutions, which are depicted on a folding screen in eight ivory miniatures.
The Red Cross Egg signaled that the Romanov's protective shell of imperial privilege had been dangerously cracked by the onset of World War I. Alexandra enrolled herself and her older daughters in nurses' training and converted the Winter Palace into a provisional hospital to care for the wounded. The egg reveals portraits the Romanov women dressed in the Sisters of Mercy uniform.

Also on display is an egg celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg, from which a miniature statue of Peter the Great emerges.

However, the show offers much more than eggs from elegant jewelry to exquisite dishes and ornate frames.

Born in 1846, Fabergé was educated in St. Petersburg and Dresden, where he fell under the influence of Renaissance and Baroque art. He trained with goldsmiths in France, Germany and England, eventually building a business catering to the tastes of Russia’s upper class.

“Fabergé’s workshops were managed by only the most accomplished master metal smiths and jewelers, and great care was taken in the selection of materials to assure the highest quality,” said Shotick.

OKCMOA President and CEO E. Michael Whittington said each staff member has been intrigued by a different piece. For him it’s a small star frame with the photograph of Grand Duchess Tatiana.

“For me, the beauty of this object lies in its simplicity and superb craftsmanship. Its tragic history, however it was included in the inventory of personal effects from the murdered Romanov family makes it endlessly fascinating,” Whittington said.

“For whatever it represented, this object matter dearly to the Romanov family,” Anderson added.

Bringing the exhibition to Oklahoma City is the culmination of years of work, Whittington said, acknowledging the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for their collaboration.

 “It has truly been an exciting international collaboration.”

Whittington is excited people are taking note of Oklahoma as an art destination with institutions like the OKCMOA, the Gilcrease and Philbrook in Tulsa, and the Fred Jones Museum of Art in Norman.  

 “Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars builds on the already strong reputation of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in showcasing major exhibitions. Later this summer, we’ll be announcing an even more ambitious exhibition and partnership with one of the world’s leading art museums,” Whittington said.  

Buy tickets online at or at the Museum’s admission desk. Audio guides are available for adults and children to immerse visitors in the artwork and mystery of the Romanov dynasty. 

© Michaela Marx Wheatley / NewsOK. 21 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:11 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 22 June 2015 9:16 AM EDT
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Sunday, 14 June 2015
Faberge Jewellery Manufacturers Had no Equals in Europe
Topic: Faberge

Portrait of Carl Fabergé. Artist: Unknown
The Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg continues to investigate the contribution of Russian businessmen, merchants and patrons of the arts in the country's development. Its collections include a book by Tatiana Muntyan "Fabergé: Jeweller of the Romanovs", which reveals the causes of global recognition of Carl Fabergé’s jewellery. His name is inseparable from the image of imperial courts of Russia and Europe of the late 19th - early 20th century. Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II often used the products of the master to strengthen political, economic and military relations within the country and abroad.

The launch of Fabergé company refers to 1842, when the 2nd guild merchant Gustav Fabergé opened in the Admiralty part of St. Petersburg a modest shop with a workshop of gold and diamond items. By origin, Fabergé family represented French Protestants (Huguenots) who immigrated first to Germany and then settled in Livonia. Like many jewellers of the time, Gustav Fabergé rushed to the jewellery Mecca of the empire - St. Petersburg. It was there that his son Peter Carl (1846-1920) was born, under whom the company earned a well-deserved worldwide fame and popularity, becoming a powerful business enterprise "producing jewellery, silver, and other products of metal and stones."

In his work Carl Fabergé demonstrates a wide palette of styles - from the "Art Nouveau" to "Art Deco", dominated by modernism and the "Russian style." More than two hundred works and historical documents that are included in the above publication, illustrate the wide range of his talent in using a variety of techniques and materials for the realization of the infinite variety of subjects. The magic touch of the master’s hand transformed diamonds, Ural gems, enamel, crystal and precious metals into magnificent decorations, Easter eggs, flowers, animal figures and many other unusual items.

Splendid Easter eggs make up the smallest part of what the company had created during the time of its existence. But when we say "Fabergé" we imagine primarily these brilliant works, the creation of which the great jeweler devoted more than thirty years of his life. Special recognition of connoisseurs was given to the eggs named "Constellation of the Tsarevich" and "Coronation" - with a miniature coach inside. Description of such a magnificent egg in the bill was laconic: "Egg of yellow enamel and a coach." The price: 5500 rubles. The "Coronation" egg reminded the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of the great event when she contracted "a mystical marriage with Russia," as it is written in the book of A. Bohanov "Nicholas II».

The House of Fabergé building at 24 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa in St. Petersburg, as it looks today
Initially, Peter Carl "was attached to the family and the capital of his father", but in 1872 he headed the business. Thanks to fastidious taste in art and astonishing energy of Carl Fabergé, the company became the largest jewelry enterprise in Russia with a large staff of craftsmen and artists (more than five hundred people) and modern equipment. The company had branches in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London.

The book by I. Zimin and A. Sokolov, "Jewellery treasures of the Russian imperial court", which is also held by the Presidential Library, describes the activities of foreign representative offices of the Russian jewellery company: “Among the personal orders coming directly from members of the imperial family, a significant part covered the gifts to European relatives. ...For example, when preparing a trip of the Empress Maria Feodorovna to Denmark, the imperial family ordered the items with the total cost of 4, 464 rubles: three elephants, a mushroom, two cups with the eagles." At that time it was a considerable sum of money.

The main jewellery production, the main shop and office were located in the house of Carl Fabergé, built in 1900 in the aristocratic district of St. Petersburg, on Bolshaya Morskaya Street designed by architect Karl Schmidt. The house had a safe-lift, which delivered items from the workshops to the selling area on the ground floor.

Many representatives of St. Petersburg elite, such as the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre Matilda Kshesinskaya, kept their jewellery in Fabergé’s house. In the book cited in this publication, Kshessinskaya says that she did not take her jewellery when going to a tour abroad: Fabergé’s company insured them and transported abroad itself. Arriving abroad, Kshessinskaya just mentioned the number of the time by telephone (for purposes of secrecy), and the agent detective brought the needed jewel in the hotel or theatre, while remaining close to it all evening.

In 1885, Carl Fabergé was allowed to be referred to the Supplier of the Imperial Court, and five years later he was bestowed the title of the Appraiser of the Office of His Imperial Majesty - Fabergé was invited to the palaces for the accurate evaluation of quality and value of the stones.

By all accounts, gold and silver, and jewellery that Fabergé so ably represented at home and abroad, was the sector of industry in which the Russians had no equal in Europe.

© Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 14 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:05 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 June 2015 8:18 AM EDT
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Giant Statue of Orthodox Prince Vladimir the Great Stirs Controversy in Moscow
Topic: Russian Church

Scaffolding surrounds the vast clay sculpture-in-progress of Prince Vladimir the Great  inside a warehouse on Moscow's outskirts
Scaffolding surrounds the vast clay sculpture-in-progress inside a warehouse on Moscow's outskirts, yet already the statue of Vladimir the Great has caused an outcry as big as the monument itself.

The 24-metre (78-feet) high likeness of the man who brought Christianity to Kievan Rus - the forerunner of modern Russia and Ukraine - is set to tower over the capital, the latest potent symbol in a surge of patriotism taking hold in Russia.

Prince Vladimir is revered as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church and a hero by others, including the noted sculptor of the work, Salavat Shcherbakov. But not all Moscow agrees.

"He's a figure whom the people, the country, can rely on. And he is important right now" he said, working on the ornate robes as Vladimir looms above, right hand raised high ready to hold a cross.

Russian sculptor Salavat Scherbakov climbs the scaffolding around his model for a monument of St. Vladimir at his orkshop in Moscow 
Public outcry

The final, cast bronze is scheduled for installation in September on a prime spot called Sparrow Hills, overlooking all of Moscow - and where all of Moscow will see Vladimir.

But the choice has proved so divisive it may be changed.
In a flurry of public anger, more than 59,000 people joined an online petition against the planned location, one of the city's best-loved viewpoints high above Moscow's centre.

Several thousand students and staff at the nearby Moscow State University also signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin opposing the statue.

Even some of the leather clad bikers who roar up to Sparrow Hills each evening are not happy. "Who is this statue for? I think it's totally inappropriate here," said Sergei Govinov, two gold crosses dangling on his tanned chest "Where are we going to meet now?"

"It outrages all sorts of different people," said local councillor and anti-statue campaigner Yelena Rusakova. "In recent years in Moscow, I can't remember another example of so many people signing a petition and writing letters."

Tall as it is, the statue is still dwarfed by Moscow's biggest such monuments, like the Soviet-era Worker and Collective Farm Worker that stands 25 metres high on a 33-metre pedestal. And a widely reviled monument to Tsar Peter the Great by Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli is even taller, at 98 metres.

An artist's concept of the statue of Prince Vladimir the Great overlooking Moscow from its proposed location on Sparrow Hills
Church backing

Backed by the Russian Orthodox Church and the culture ministry, the Vladimir monument is part of a drive to boost patriotism by evoking historic glories and conservative Christian values.

An Orthodox youth group gathered more than 62,000 signatures online in support of the project.

But opponents say Vladimir the Great has no historic links to Moscow, which did not exist at the time.

And they say he is already commemorated with a large statue in Kiev, the capital of former Soviet neighbour Ukraine with which Moscow is locked in a bitter standoff after it annexed the Crimea region and was accused of stirring a separatist conflict.

Other opponents have warned that the 300-tonne statue perched on the edge of a steep 100-metre high slope above Moscow River could cause a catastrophic landslide.

Scuffles recently broke out at a protest at the site when pro-Kremlin bikers tore posters and shouted abuse at people campaigning against the statue.

In a surprise, last-minute turnabout, the pro-government military history society that commissioned and financed the monument has now asked city authorities to consider other locations.

The statue, the society said "Citing the protests and 'safety concerns', should be an indisputably uniting factor".

Anti-statue protestor Rusakova has cautioned opponents not to relax and to continue the campaign, noting the city council will not rule on the matter until July.

"The most important thing is that there is a shared desire among the citizens of our country for this sculpture to go up," said sculptor Shcherbakov, denouncing what he sees as "some people are purely ideological" arguments against the monument.

©  Agence France-Presse. 14 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 June 2015 7:53 AM EDT
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Saturday, 13 June 2015
A Russian Moment No. 69 - English Palace, Peterhof
Topic: A Russian Moment

A simple memorial stone was placed on the site of the ruins of the English Palace in 2008.
The photo in the upper right corner shows this "masterpiece of Russian Classicism" as it looked before 1917.
Giacomo Quarenghi's first important commission in Russia was the New Palace, later known as the English Palace at Peterhof. Empress Catherine II commissioned the Italian architect to build her a “place of seclusion on her visits to Peterhof.” Simple, austere and elegant in design, the three-story palace was constructed between 1781-89. Quarenghi created a magnificent rectangular edifice in the Classical style on the banks of a small pond in the English Park at Peterhof. The main entrance was dominated by a wide granite staircase leading to the first floor and eight Corinthian columns stretched across the portico. 

The palace, which pleased Catherine II immensely was heralded as a masterpiece of Russian classicism, however, it was never occupied as an imperial residence by either her or her successors. When her son, Emperor Paul I ascended the throne in 1796, the palace was turned into a barracks. Later, during the reign of Emperor Alexander I, the palace was completely renovated under Quarenghi’s supervision between 1802-1805.

Up until the February Revolution of 1917, the palace served as a place where foreign diplomats and other guests stayed, while attending receptions at the nearby Great Palace. From time to time public events were arranged in the palace, such as exhibitions and public concerts, including the famed Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein who performed here on July 14, 1885. After the Revolution the palace served as a sanatorium. 

During the second world war, the frontline ran through the English Park. The palace and the surrounding park became an area for shelling by both German and Soviet forces during World War II and both park and palace were utterly destroyed. Despite plans for restoration, apparently approved in 1975, nothing was done and the palace’s shelled ruins were subsequently demolished by the Soviets. 

The only evidence of Quarenghi’s masterpiece is a simple memorial stone established on the palace ruins in 2008. Bullet marks from the Second World War are still visible on the granite pedestal it rests on.
Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 13 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:50 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 13 June 2015 10:52 AM EDT
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