State Hermitage Museum - No Celebrations Planned to Mark 250th Anniversary Topic: Winter Palace
The staff of the State Hermitage Museum will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the museum in a modest way, the director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky said at the meeting with the residents of St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2014. As it had been previously reported by Piotrovsky, by its anniversary the museum plans to significantly expand its exhibition space and to open the new storages to the public. The activities related to the anniversary of the Hermitage, including the depository construction and the renovation of buildings, the publication of catalogs and updates of the website, will cost 13.03 billion rubles, of which 12.96 billion will come from the federal budget. "We are not planning any big celebrations: we will not have any special formal meetings, there will be no exhibitions gathered from around the world", - Piotrovsky reported.
"Mechanical Orchestra" Gets New Lease of Life at Winter Palace Topic: Winter Palace
The State Hermitage Museum’s legendary Johann Strasser clock, also known as “the mechanical orchestra,” is to be restored by 2014 as part of the celebrations of the museum’s 250th anniversary.
The elaborate 18th-century clock has been silent for at least 150 years.
“This clock is outstanding in so many ways: It is a fascinating example of decorative and applied art, it is a technical marvel, it is a fine musical instrument in which there are recordings of masterpieces of 18th-century classical music, and it is an artifact that has a most romantic and dramatic story behind it,” said Igor Sychev, the Hermitage curator responsible for the maintenance of the exhibit.
The celebrated craftsman Johann Georg Strasser originally designed the Mechanical Orchestra for the Mikhailovsky Castle, the residence built by Tsar Paul I that already housed two of Strasser’s less sophisticated clocks. It took the master eight years — from 1793 to 1801 — to finish the technically challenging piece.
The tsar, however, never had a chance to enjoy the commission: He was murdered in the spring of 1801, before the order was complete. After the tsar’s death, the master craftsman, whom the project had saddled with losses as he invested most of his fortune into making the unique item, decided to organize a lottery and make the clock the main prize. It took Strasser more than two years to sell enough tickets to make the lottery financially viable. To promote the lottery, he traveled across the country and arranged performances of “the mechanical orchestra.”
The draw was held on May 4 1804, yet the lucky winner would not show up for almost a year. The winner, a young officer who, en route to his detachment, was staying with a Latvian widow, gave the lottery ticket to his landlady as a parting gift before the winning ticket was announced. When she discovered her luck, the widow decided not to keep the clock, and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1805 with the intention of setting up another lottery to dispose of it, but Tsar Alexander I instead agreed to buy it from her for 20,000 rubles plus a lifetime pension.
According to some sources, Alexander I also had a plan for the unlucky clock. He allegedly intended to include it among the gifts that were being sent to China with a diplomatic mission. However, the Chinese emperor refused to receive the Russian ambassadors, and the clock was instead installed in one of the halls of the Winter Palace.
The Mechanical Orchestra is shaped like a temple. It is about four meters high, and has a portico and paired mahogany columns embellished with gilded bronze.
The organ is driven by four weights, each weighing nearly 200 kilograms. The music is recorded on 14 removable wooden barrels, with each of them playing an eight-minute classical composition.
The original thirteen barrels contained pieces by Haydn and Mozart, including the overture from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” One of the pieces, composed by the then-popular Viennese pianist and composer Anton Eberl, was written especially for Strasser’s “mechanical orchestra.” In 1861, a fourteenth barrel was added, but even at that time the clock was barely functional, and it has been broken ever since.
“Like any experimental piece, and like any unique piece, the ‘mechanical orchestra’ has a rather long list of sensitive issues,” said restorer Mikhail Guriyev, head of the department of restoration of clocks and musical instruments of the State Hermitage Museum.
“Despite its massive size and imposing looks, the Strasser clock is a very fragile creature. The coil springs that make the barrels roll can be compared with those of a steam train. The poises would often drop, destroying the mechanics, and the instrument needed to be fixed. The trick is that the instrument needs to produce a smooth, light, graceful sound, despite the rather mighty machinery that is involved in making it run.”
The grand-scale restoration project is being funded by JTI tobacco company, which signed an agreement with the Hermitage in 2011. Such charitable activities are at great risk of being banned for tobacco companies in early 2013: A draft law that would ban tobacco companies from taking part in philanthropic activities is currently awaiting review at the State Duma. If passed, the law, which has stirred a nationwide debate, would prohibit tobacco companies from donating to charities and taking part in any other philanthropic activities.
The bill’s critics have branded the initiative as hypocritical: After all, the Russian state is comfortable with harvesting high tax revenues from tobacco companies, yet is willing to impose a ban on charity for them, thus ostracizing their business.
In these challenging circumstances, Anatoly Vereshchagin, JTI’s director of charitable projects, has promised that the company will deliver on all its obligations that have been made to date, regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Duma vote.
“There is still time for the State Duma to decide against the law; however, if the ban does get introduced, we will transfer all the money required for the restoration of the clock before the law comes into force,” Vereshchagin said. “All calculations of the costs have been made, and we can assure you that the money will suffice.”
Creator of the Hermitage's Military Gallery, Remembered in London Topic: Winter Palace
Photo: The Military Gallery of the Winter Palace (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), created by George Dawe.
On October 15, a wreath-laying ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral crypt took place at the grave of the British artist George Dawe (1781-1829), who died on this day. The artist became world famous after accomplishing, on the request of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace. The Gallery consists of over 300 portraits of the Russian commanders active during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. The Bicentenary of Russia’s victory over Napoleon is celebrated this year.
Among the participants of the ceremony were the representatives of the Russian Embassy in London, Russian and British painters as well as the author of a new book on George Dawe being published in Russia, Ms. Galina Andreeva. Memorial prayers for the artist and those fallen in the wars were said by the Cathedral’s clergy.
The Library of Nicholas II in the Winter Palace Topic: Winter Palace
The Library of Emperor Nicholas II in the Winter Palace, designed by the architect Alexander Krasovsky in the late 19th century, once constituted a part of private apartments of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. English Gothic motifs were widely used in the décor of this interior. The walnut coffers of the ceiling are adorned with four-petal rosettes. The main decorative elements of the library are bookcases arranged along the walls of the room and of the gallery reached by a staircase. This peculiar interior with its panels of stamped gilt leather, massive mantelpiece and high windows with openwork sashes evokes a romantic atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Displayed on the table is a sculptural portrait of Nicholas II (lower right) made after Leopold Bernstamm's model at the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in 1897. The library has survived to this day and is on permanent display at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
The Chandelier at the Hermitage Theater Topic: Winter Palace
On 3 April 2012, the chandelier at the Hermitage Theater was lowered for its annual cleaning and bulb-changing.
The Adolphe Morand Bronze Works were founded in Saint Petersburg in the mid-1850s under the auspices of the Electroplating House of Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg, and continued to operate through 1917. The Works carried out numerous orders for the Imperial Palace, with their bronze creations frequently adorning the city’s grand ducal palaces.
In 1899-1900, Adolphe Morand fabricated chandeliers for the Jordan Staircase and the St. George, Coat-of-Arms and the Nicholas Halls of the Winter Palace. Yet, the Works’ first creation to receive widespread acclaim was the chandelier at the Hermitage Theater in 1889. With its intricate design and imposing proportions, the chandelier was originally intended to be equipped with electric bulbs, thereby making it possible to forego the single large-sized and twelve smaller oil-lamp chandeliers that had theretofore been used to illuminate the Theater.
The pear-shaped chandelier (such designs first became popular in the 1840s) is richly-ornamented and features Louis-XVI stylistic elements. The fixture’s multi-element bronze sconces, shaped like floral shoots, and opulent hoop designed to resemble acanthus leaves, were gilded using the electroplating method. The unique lighting effect is created by the manner in which the chandelier’s high-quality, possibly Bohemian, crystal plays in the light.
High Price for Hermitage Jubilee Celebration Topic: Winter Palace
A sum of some $373 million will be allocated by the state for the festivities and events marking the 250th jubilee of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. One of Russia’s main museums – the State Hermitage is celebrating its anniversary in 2014.
Acording to Baltinfo, the astounding sum was announced by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. He said all the events and celebratory actions will be held in December 2014.
By 2014, the authorities and the museum administration plan to complete a series of reconstruction and renovation works. According to the museum’s irreplaceable director Mikhail Piotrovky, it is planning an extensive exhibition program dated for the milestone birthday.
Preparations and organizational work are already underway.
The Hermitage Museum, one of the largest and oldest museums of the world, was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. Today its collection totals some 3 million pieces, including the world’s largest collection of paintings. The Museum currently occupies a complex of buildings in central St. Petersburg, with the main one being a former Imperial residence – the Winter Palace.
The Hall of Carriages from the Hermitage Collection Topic: Winter Palace
The Hall of Carriages was created specially to house the Hermitage's remarkable collection of carriages. Here we find such interesting exhibits as the vis-a-vis carriage (circa 1761, Paris), which Ivan Betskoi presented to Catherine the Great, and the state carriage (master Ivan Yakovlev) made for the entrance of ladies-in-waiting to Moscow on the occasion of the coronation of Alexander II in 1856.
The collection is housed in the Art Storage and Restoration Centre of the State Hermitage Museum in Staraya Derevyna, St. Petersburg, and is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday.